Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA and Lord Deighton, the UK government’s ‘infrastructure minister’ today spoke of the important role that collaboration between the public sector and the private sector can play in delivering first class infrastructure in Northern Ireland.
The Finance Minister and Lord Deighton, former Olympics CEO, now Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, were addressing 200 of Northern Ireland’s key investors, construction experts and local leaders at the first joint UK and NIE Infrastructure Investment Seminar in Belfast.
Investing in key infrastructure projects in areas such as transport, energy and telecommunications will be critical to ensuring the UK’s ability to compete in the global race in the coming years. Across the UK, the private sector funds and finances a large proportion of infrastructure investment; over two thirds of the current UK infrastructure pipeline is expected to come either fully or in part from the private sector.
At the summit, representatives from industry discussed how they can build on recent successes in Northern Ireland, with ministers and officials from Infrastructure UK. IUK is the UK Treasury body responsible for infrastructure, working to encourage private sector investment through, for example the UK Guarantees scheme, which is in place to give projects the security they need to raise private finance and get projects moving.
Simon Hamilton Minister for Finance and Personnel said:
Having the right infrastructure in place has the potential to transform the economic future of the entire region, and good infrastructure also contributes much to our wider society. There is no part of our lives that is untouched by infrastructure investment – we need modern roads, public transport, digital networks and utilities to live and work.
The Minister acknowledged the important role that collaboration between the public and private sectors can play in infrastructure delivery and his intention to improve project delivery, he said:
It is crucial for us to develop strong relationships with the private sector, as it can often deliver innovative outcomes. Importantly that means both central and local government. I believe there is more that can be done by central government to harness the innovation and skills that the private sector can bring. An excellent recent example of this is the University of Ulster re-location project, which the Executive supported to the tune of £35 million using new loan funding through Financial Transactions Capital.
Delivering the key note address Lord Deighton highlighted the need for Northern Ireland businesses to avail of the UK funding opportunities. He said:
Infrastructure is the backbone of the economy, and it is crucial that we all play our part in building the country’s future roads, rail, digital networks to make sure we can compete in the global race.
As I saw during the Olympics, there is a real appetite for investment in the UK and it’s our job in government to harness that. We’ve set out a clear pipeline of projects, slashed prohibitive red-tape and through schemes like UK Guarantees we’re supporting major projects to raise finance. I strongly believe that working with the private sector we can get the best infrastructure for Northern Ireland, and the whole of the UK economy.
Endorsing the Infrastructure Seminar the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. She said:
The UK government’s effort to deliver a sustainable economic recovery for the whole of our country is being driven forward by our long term economic plan. We have a shared objective with the Executive to rebalance and strengthen the economy here in Northern Ireland. That’s why we signed the economic pact last year and continue to work closely together to create the right conditions for growth, jobs and investment. Good quality infrastructure is vital to building a strong, modern and dynamic economy, both in Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole that can succeed in the global race.
I welcome recent good news that has seen Thales UK, Bombardier and Wrightbus securing investment for Northern Ireland business. This is great news for Northern Ireland. These new jobs will enable more people to take home a wage to support their families and provide them with financial security. These recent jobs announcements have also shown once again that we have companies here who can compete with the best in the world.
The ministers were joined on the podium by Geoffrey Spence, Chief Executive of IUK, and Chair of Northern Ireland’s Strategic Investment Board, Gerry McGinn as well as a host of high profile executives from regulators and the private sector.