Capital Investment

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Catherine Seeley Catherine Seeley Sinn Féin 3:00 pm, 22nd November 2016

7. Ms Seeley asked the Minister of Finance what plans he has to increase the scale and effectiveness of capital investment. (AQO 736/16-21)

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin

Aside from the real terms increases in our local capital Budget, I plan to utilise any additional capital funding that may be announced tomorrow as part of the Chancellor's autumn statement to take forward an economic stimulus package with the agreement of my Executive colleagues and the House. That is a good idea, and we will be bringing it forward.

I also plan to ensure that the Executive seek ways in which to introduce capital investment from other sources. That is why I have organised a symposium with Ibec and the CBI on 27 January. It will give the construction and business sectors an opportunity to engage with government on investment opportunities and, of course, on where the funding will come from. In addition, I have recently appointed seven new external members to the procurement board from the private and voluntary and community sectors to determine how we spend our money. That includes Colin Maxwell, who is an artist and architect. I have tasked him with bringing forward proposals to promote architectural excellence and to further the arts in the Executive's infrastructure projects.

Photo of Catherine Seeley Catherine Seeley Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his answer. He has touched on my supplementary question, but, given that he has a keen interest in the arts, how does he intend to use capital investment to support the arts further?

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin

That is commonplace south of the border. Cork city in particular has published an evaluation recently of how it uses Per Cent for Art. It is common in parts of Europe and very common in San Francisco and New York that, when you undertake a capital project, you set aside a percentage for the arts. The consequence of that is that you really change the entire cityscape, or landscape of a city. It is my wish that we reinvestigate how Per Cent for Art, which existed but we have stopped for many years now, might be brought back to the centre of the procurement process and the centre of the building process. When you go to many great cities across Europe and the US and see new investment in capital build, you also see new works of public art. That is a good way to go, and I hope to be able to bring forward more ideas on that to the House.

Photo of Emma Little Pengelly Emma Little Pengelly DUP

I have been speaking to some people about some very exciting proposals for capital investment. Given that we are anticipating a four-year multi-year Budget tomorrow in the Chancellor's statement, will the Minister outline the time frame for the much-needed investment fund?

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin

We are doing better than we were when the Member, or one of her colleagues, last brought this up. She knows that we had some disappointing news from the European Investment Bank. We thought that it was not prudent for it to proceed along the lines that we had originally envisaged with the NI investment fund, which was first put forward by your colleague Minister Hamilton.

We are now making significant progress. I hope that we will get an OK from the Office for National Statistics and that we can move the investment fund off balance sheet, which means that we could deliver it in the middle of next year. As the Chairwoman is very aware, there are a lot of private sector people with energy projects in particular who really hope that we get this investment fund up and running because they will be coming to our door asking to borrow money to make transformative investments in the community.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy Deputy Speaker 3:15 pm, 22nd November 2016

That ends the period for listed questions. We move on to 15 minutes of topical questions.