The Executive’s investment strategy that the Assembly approved in January 2008 is the largest-ever commitment to infrastructure development in Northern Ireland. By 2018, we plan to invest almost £20 billion to tackle the legacy of decades of underinvestment that we inherited.
That determined action will put in place the assets that are required to support high-quality public services, to regenerate communities and to enhance the economic competitiveness that is essential to sustaining jobs and prosperity. Just over five years ago, infrastructure investment was less than £1 billion per annum. Last year, it amounted to almost £1·4 billion, and it is planned to reach £2 billion by the end of this Budget period.
That is a measure of our recent success and of our ambition to go further, but delivering the investment strategy involves more than simply spending the money. Our key commitments must be delivered on time, to a high-quality standard and at value for money. It also means investing in projects that offer a good return. Expectations are high, but we must not underestimate the challenges. We now face global financial and economic difficulties. Our local construction industry, in particular, is looking to our investment programme to support local jobs through difficult times ahead, and to provide opportunities for more apprenticeships and training. We are determined to ensure that the investment strategy helps to meet those calls.
The Strategic Investment Board (SIB) performs a vital role in the development, monitoring and communication of our investment strategy, and — in moving forward — our key infrastructure-investment programmes. It helps Departments to deliver major projects across the full spectrum of services, including healthcare, the environment, schools and colleges, roads, water, waste and public administration.
The SIB provides expert commercial, legal and project-delivery advice to Departments, drawing on its advisers’ extensive experience of major infrastructure procurements. That advice helps us to ensure that the best deals are obtained for the public purse and that risks are identified and appropriately managed. We recently met the SIB chairman and its chief executive to discuss the progress that is being made in implementing the investment strategy and to consider what additional steps could be taken to introduce capital projects.