I am delighted to be here in Seanad Éireann to discuss the review of the national development plan, NDP. I genuinely welcome the opportunity to update Members on the review of the NDP which is currently well under way.
For the past year, the world has grappled with the spread of Covid-19 which, as we all know, has not only presented unprecedented healthcare challenges but has taken its toll on all sectors of our society and indeed our economy. While maintaining the focus on addressing the health emergency, we must also look to the future and ensure we are sufficiently prepared for the transition to a post-Covid-19 world.
At a time of economic uncertainty, building confidence is crucial and we know a sustained commitment to public capital investment will act as an important economic stabiliser and stimulus as well a providing confidence, both nationally and internationally. OECD research indicates that infrastructure investments have a powerful multiplier effect which stimulates demand, creates jobs both indirectly and directly during our recovery, and increases economic activity. This is why the Government and I were eager to support our economy with the July stimulus package last year and why I allocated capital expenditure of €10.8 billion for this year. This represented an important shift from previous approaches to capital spending during tough economic conditions.
The Government remains strongly committed to Project Ireland 2040. The current NDP allocates €116 billion in capital investment for an ambitious pipeline of public investment projects aimed at upgrading Ireland's infrastructure, enhancing our economic capacity, and promoting balanced regional development. We have also brought forward the review of the NDP, which was originally planned for 2022. This was announced during our review to renew process on 3 November last year. It included a public and stakeholder engagement call which closed on 19 February. The review provides an opportunity to reassess investment plans, to update project costings, and to highlight any new issues which need to be taken into consideration, particularly in light of the ongoing impacts and recovery from Covid.
As part of the review the Government is steadfast in our ongoing commitment to align the NDP with the national planning framework as well as aligning with the priorities identified in the programme for Government, including climate action, housing policy, transport, broadband, the implementation of Sláintecare, and balanced regional development. We are very much aware rural Ireland must also be a central part of our national economic and social recovery. We need to be forward looking and ambitious and seek to realise opportunities for rural areas. Therefore, the review will reinforce the Government's plans to support rural Ireland over the coming years through compact growth in our rural towns and villages.
At this juncture, we also recognise it is an imperative that investment is steered towards productive, balanced and sustainable investment plans, which will be critical in setting out our environmental pathway and crucial for the realisation of our climate ambitions and targets.
In planning for the future, the Government is also committed to streamlining procedures to increase productivity and enhance overall quality. The majority of recent infrastructure projects have been delivered on time and on budget. However, complex projects can sometimes run into difficulties. We need to develop high levels of professional capacity right across the public and private sectors to deliver on the potential of Project Ireland 2040.
We have committed to setting out substantial reforms to the development and planning process for infrastructure projects, including the introduction of structural reforms and measures to increase capacity to ensure construction projects get delivered in a timely manner and on budget. Importantly, the review will also examine the capacity in the public sector to deliver major projects. While steady progress has been made in the implementation of Project Ireland 2040, the ongoing national development plan review means it is timely to enhance governance and assurance structures.
I am developing a new external review process for all major projects worth over €100 million which will form part of the evidence base for finalising the revised national development plan. There will be two new elements to strengthen the existing assurance process for major projects. First, a framework of external experts in major infrastructure delivery will be put in place to advise Departments at two key decision gates when the business case for the project has been developed and before it goes to tender. The reviews will focus on robustness of planned delivery, accuracy of cost forecasts, consideration of risk and procurement. Second, a major projects advisory group will be established to support the Department in managing the external expert framework and assimilating the outputs from the reviews.
I am also reforming the composition and role of the Project Ireland 2040 delivery board. The delivery board was established in 2018. It meets regularly to ensure effective leadership of the implementation of Project Ireland 2040 which includes both the national development plan and national planning framework. I have secured the Government's agreement to have up to five external members appointed to the board to bring additional expert knowledge, independent and regional perspectives and enhanced challenge function. These members would be in addition to the Secretaries General of the main capital spending Departments.
The domestic and international evidence on major projects shows that better analysis of cost and risk at the upfront stage results in improved outcomes. Taken together, the framework of external experts and the major projects advisory group will mean that when the Government is making decisions on these projects, it will have as full a picture as possible regarding expenditure, risks and benefits. This will help mitigate the risk of positivity bias when it comes to major capital projects and, in turn, reduce the possibility of delays and cost overruns.
As such, the Government is cognisant that it must secure the skills pipeline over the coming years to meet current and future needs. The review of the national development plan involves the consideration of five broad elements. It will examine the level of public investment as to whether it needs to be adjusted. The share of capital expenditure across Departments will be assessed to see if it needs to be adjusted. Consideration will be given to how Project Ireland 2040 can be changed to deliver on the policy priorities in the programme for Government such as housing, health, transport, job creation, enterprise development and climate action. An assessment will be carried out on whether our plans are ensuring regional balance in line with the national planning framework strategy of compact growth. We will look at governance and where any structures and rules can be improved. Taken together, all of these strands of work will provide a strong evidence base to allow the Government to make informed decisions.
The first phase of the review is nearing completion and will result in the publication of a report in the coming weeks. The report will draw upon several pieces of research, policy papers and consultations, including the public consultation, which have been carried out over the past number of months.
In terms of next steps, my Department will lead a strategic dialogue with other Departments over the coming months with the primary aim of agreeing the new five-year rolling departmental capital allocations and overall ten-year capital ceilings to 2030. I have also asked my ministerial colleagues to rigorously assess the costs of existing planned projects to ensure that those costs are up to date and realistic.
I intend to publish the new and revised national development plan this summer. It will detail a vision for public investment in the period 2021 to 2030.
It will ensure the implementation of the national planning framework, NPF, through investment levels which will be among the highest in the European Union, with the clearly stated strategic outcome of transitioning to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society. I look forward to the contributions of Members and to responding in the wrap-up stage later on.