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Six steps to delivering the National Development Plan

Jul 20, 2018
Conor Gunn explains how Ireland can keep the National Development Plan on time and on budget to deliver on Ireland’s infrastructure requirements.

Ireland’s economy continues to perform strongly compared to our European peers, with GDP growth of 4.9% forecast in 2018, full employment within reach and growing tax revenues. However, with increased competition from abroad and with issues like Brexit looming on the horizon, visible capacity constraints – particularly across housing, health and transport – are key issues which will need to be addressed with significant and sustained infrastructure investment. 

The Government’s plan to address Ireland’s infrastructure requirements is well-articulated in the National Development Plan 2018 – 2027 (NDP), the National Planning Framework (NPF) – Together Ireland 2040 and Rebuilding Ireland. These plans are not mutually exclusive, however, and achieving key policy objectives will be dependent on delivering the broader infrastructural requirements of the NDP within the timeframes envisaged. 

A clear manifestation of Ireland’s broader infrastructure issue is the challenge of producing a sufficient housing supply that is commercially viable yet affordable. NDP’s strategic investment priorities are clear:

  • Housing and sustainable urban development
  • National road networks
  • Sustainable mobility
  • Water infrastructure
  • Broadband
  • Education, health and childcare 
Infrastructural constraints will remain a key challenge for Ireland over the next five to ten years but they can be addressed if Ireland 2040 is delivered within the timeframes promised.  Right now, there are key actions required to deliver the NDP on time and on budget:

1. Strong project management 

Realistic but ambitious timelines for each project must be put in place. The public and private sector must work together to make the most of the expertise and resources available.

2. Clear corporate governance structures 

Effective governance structures that include ministers, line departments, agencies and statutory bodies (stakeholders) should be established. This should include defining each stakeholder’s responsibilities to clearly aligned them to the Ireland 2040 objectives.

3. Stakeholder forums 

Stakeholder working groups should be established where shared goals can be defined and agreed. Risks should be identified from the outset with mitigation plans by sector and project put in place. These forums should also set out escalation mechanisms that will raise issues with Departments and/or Minsters as appropriate – a methodology which worked well to drive the 2012 Public Private Partnership Stimulus package.

4. Public sector funding and resourcing  

Over the past 10 years, the Government has had little choice but to cut back on spending on large projects. Ireland’s infrastructure has suffered as a result and now this historic shortfall must be compensated for. It is important that adequate funding is also provided to delivery agencies, local authorities and An Bord Pleanála for their internal and external resourcing requirements so that bottle necks are identified and cleared. 

5. Construction industry capacity

At present, Ireland has skills shortages in a number of areas that will be key to our continued economic development. As the competition for talent continues to grow, government initiatives to attract skilled workers home should be put in place. 

We need to build long term capacity by promoting STEM and apprenticeships in schools, colleges and in the construction industry. A predictable project programme is the best way to develop a skill base in the construction industry.

6. Use of technology

Technology should be used to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. Opportunities to use existing assets more efficiently through use of smart technology should also be identified.

Conor Gunn is a Director in EY’s Government, Infrastructure and Economic Advisory team.