"If we aren't aspirational and visionary, we'll fail society," said ICE Regional Director Richard Kirk on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside Business programme. Richard spoke with host Wendy Austin about ICE's ongoing National Needs Assessment, which will determine what Northern Ireland's top infrastructure needs will be heading into the year 2050.
While discussing what Northern Ireland's incoming Assembly will have to do in order to successfully meet those needs, Richard stressed the fact that most infrastructure projects take 10-15 years to complete. This presents a timeline challenge, as the electoral cycle is only a short five years.
"We need politicians to commit to infrastructure," Richard said.
One of the other guest speakers, Dale Farm Chief Executive David Dobbin, echoed Richard's call for a practical, outcome-focused Programme for Government. David particularly highlighted the need for government to bring down energy costs and raise revenue through water rates or other mechanisms — a point made in the ICE Manifesto.
"To some extent the Executive are limiting or constraining themselves by trying to maintain a low tax region while investing in the future," David said. "I'd like to see them starting to tackle the more unpopular things they have to do — leadership requires them to make the right decisions."
Richard expanded upon the necessity of water charging by highlighting Belfast Lough's risk of failing EU standards — a risk that could mean daily fines of up to £1m if conditions worsen.
"£365m a year [in fines] is what we could be looking at – that's more than we spend on our whole water and sewerage network each year," Richard said. "Investing in our water and sewerage network creates jobs, protects the environment and also encourages businesses to come here."
To listen to the full programme, use BBC iPlayer.