Ireland needs a single Government unit that plans and funds the country’s long-term strategic infrastructure needs across the economy, according to Miss Caroline Spillane the new Director General of Engineers Ireland, the professional body representing 24,000 engineers across every discipline of the sector.
Miss Spillane, who has been announced as the organisation’s new Director General and is the first female to fill the position, said a single unit, sitting in the Taoiseach’s office, should be set up to better integrate investment in key areas like transport, education, health, energy and the digital economy.
‘Planning should happen in a single infrastructure unit that works on Ireland’s long-term infrastructure priorities and secures private sector investment. We need to ensure we have the capital infrastructure in place to meet economic demand, as well as a skilled labour force ready to create and fill the jobs of the future,’ said Ms Spillane.
Engineers Ireland believes the Government’s recently announced €27 billion capital plan would not meet the needs of the economy which is growing faster than expected.
‘With macroeconomic forecasts for Ireland being revised upwards, the country’s capital infrastructure will not be enough to meet demand in the coming years. We are investing too little, the timeframe for project delivery is too long, and we are not thinking strategically enough about the long-term needs of the country,’ she said.
In the UK, a unit called Infrastructure UK sits in the Treasury and coordinates investment across Departments. In Switzerland, the national infrastructure strategy pulls together policy in all sectors, avoiding planning gaps and setting strict targets for planning, delivery and operations.
A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that €51 trillion in infrastructure investment will be needed between now and 2030 to keep up with projected global gross domestic product (GDP) growth. That will require countries to spend between at least 3% to 4% of GDP.
‘But, in Ireland, the Government is planning to invest just 2% of GDP. This underfunding, combined with delays in approval and land acquisition processes, are likely to hold back growth in the productive capacity of the economy. It will take at least a decade for Metro North in Dublin to start operating, for example. By making one unit responsible for streamlined project planning and delivery, we can improve our readiness for economic demands,’ she said.
Ms Spillane said she wanted to focus on new priorities during her time as Director General of Engineers Ireland. These included:
1. Promoting diversity and gender balance in the engineering profession;
2. Developing engineers’ skills base so that they are ready to solve global problems in areas like water supply, energy supply and food supply;
3. Advocating for sustained investment in infrastructure, research and innovation, with coordinated planning for areas like transport, education, health, energy and the digital economy;
4. Promoting environmental sustainability, especially in tackling climate change and improving water and air quality; and,
5. Contributing to the development of education and skills, especially in sectors like bio-pharma and technology, so that Ireland can create globally scalable enterprises and draw more foreign direct investment.
‘Engineers Ireland’s focus is on building a modern capital infrastructure that underpins sustainable economic growth, raised living standards, and a sustainable environment. The problems that face the world can be solved collectively, with engineers across all disciplines working together and supported by a responsive and responsible public policy framework,’ said Ms Spillane.
Engineers Ireland is to host its annual Excellence Awards 2015 on November 6, 2015, at the InterContinental Hotel in Dublin. For further information about the awards and to vote for the Engineering Project of the Year, visit www.engineersireland.ie/awards/excellence-awards.aspx