Northern Ireland could become a world leader in “green growth” if investment in roads and transport networks can be turbocharged in the coming years, a coalition of business groups has said.
The Northern Ireland Business Alliance (NIBA) was reacting to news that the Northern Ireland Executive is to set up an independent Infrastructure Commission to drive forward the region’s post-COVID recovery.
The formation of the commission follows calls from business for government to address a yawning gap in infrastructure provision in Northern Ireland, one where inadequate road and other transport networks is stymieing economic growth.
The NIBA – which is a partnership between the Confederation of British Industry Northern Ireland (CBI NI), the Centre for Competitiveness, the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland (IoD NI) and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry – said the commission needs to provide long-term strategic vision for government to influence its infrastructure spend.
“We look forward to seeing the plans progress and it is important that the scope and role of the proposed Commission aligns with the Advisory Panel’s recommendations,” it said. “The Infrastructure Commission must be expert lead, providing government with the kind of longer-term strategic vision and focus required to ensure spending on things like roads and transport networks is linked to the needs of those operating in the economy.”
The NIBA said targeted investment in infrastructure has the potential to unlock Northern Ireland’s green growth potential.
“When it comes to investment in infrastructure, Northern Ireland has – for some time – been playing catch up with our neighbours across the rest of the UK and Ireland.
“It is now time to close the gap, capitalise on this unique opportunity, and realise the tremendous potential of this region to be a world leader in green growth that makes Northern Ireland a better place in which to live, work, and do business.”
The commitment to form the commission was revealed in the Executive’s action strategy to stimulate the economy through green growth included in its consolidated COVID-19 recovery plan ‘Building Forward’.
It follows a report by a Ministerial Advisory Panel which concluded that an Infrastructure Commission was “the crucial first step in empowering us to turbocharge infrastructure to deliver cleaner, greener, sustainable and inclusive growth for all”.
The leaders of the organisations that form the Business Alliance include: Stephen Kingon, Chair, Centre for Competitiveness; Adrian Doran, Chair, CBI NI; Gordon Milligan, Chair, IoD NI; Paul Murnaghan, President, NI Chamber; Angela McGowan, Director, CBI NI; Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, NI Chamber; Bob Barbour, CEO, Centre for Competitiveness and Kirsty McManus, National Director, IoD NI.