From the Desk of Gordon Best, Regional Director, QPANI
The last number of weeks has seen an unprecedented level of lobbying and political debate around the need to deliver major infrastructure projects more efficiently and quicker in Northern Ireland.
On October 21st we saw the publication of the CBI Infrastructure Report that sets out the significant benefits of infrastructure prioritisation and delivery as a means to enhance Northern Ireland’s competitiveness, connectivity and attractiveness as a region in which to do business and invest.
Then on the 19th November the Assembly debated the following motion, “That this Assembly calls on the Executive to take all necessary steps to create an effective delivery pipeline of major infrastructure work to alleviate the current economic and social difficulties being faced across the community”.
Many MLAs contributed to the debate. In particular the Chairman of the All Party Group on Construction, Patsy McGlone MLA, said “The effectiveness of any region’s infrastructure is a critical factor in its economic growth, competitiveness and social well-being. As the world changes, there is a need for a new economic and social infrastructure to accommodate that change and maximise the potential for economic growth. In addition to the new infrastructure, the existing infrastructure must be maintained, upgraded and, where necessary, replaced. That requires long-term planning, access to consistent levels of capital investment and, importantly, the political will to use that investment wisely and deliver the necessary infrastructure work.”
This message was supported by every speaker and the motion was carried.
In mid November the Strategic Investment Board presented its recommendations on speeding up the commissioning, procurement and delivery of major infrastructure in Northern Ireland to the Finance Minister and the Procurement Board. Then on the 3rd December the All Party Assembly Group on Construction met with Justice Minister David Forde, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy, Health Minister Edwin Poots and two Senior officials from the Department of Education to discuss and get an update on the delivery of construction projects within the remit of their various Departments.
Also on that day the Construction Industry Group ( CIGNI ) launched its “Actions For Recovery” which it says is a potential road map for the Assembly and Executive to bolster the Industry and create growth across the NI economy.
Whilst we all recognise and congratulate the Assembly and Executive for the priority that has been given to the infrastructure investment, there is much work to be done. I believe urgent action and delivery is required if we are to prevent continuing job losses, further company closures, loss of our skilled young people and trades people and increasing negative social consequences being felt by communities across Northern Ireland.
There is no doubt in my mind that when you take all of the above into consideration, when we see and hear of more infrastructure projects, both public and private, being announced and even more being in the design stage and taken from “procurement ready” to “shovel ready” things are improving.
It is gratifying to be writing this last message of 2013 and looking forward into this 2014 with the greatest sense of optimism that I have felt in over 5 years.
However I must caution the Industry. If you have not learned the lessons of the past five years of what the damage sub-economic tendering, below cost selling and lack of strategic management can do then there is little hope for the future sustainability of the construction materials supply chain.
Going forward we must remove and banish to the history books “the dog eat dog” and “race to the bottom” mentality that has blighted and held back the materials supply sector in Northern Ireland for decades. We must, as an Industry, be committed to building trust, strategic partnerships and collaborative networks that will secure the long term future and sustainability of the Industry.
May I wish you all a healthy and successful 2014.