The state’s peak business organisation, the NSW Business Chamber, fully supports comments by the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, that regional infrastructure spending needs to be increased and expedited.
“You could be forgiven for thinking that there is an inconsistency when it comes to the process used by the NSW Government to approve project funding for new infrastructure, and the Deputy Premier is right when he asserts that the bush is not getting its fair share”, said NSW Business Chamber Chief Executive Stephen Cartwright.
“The NSW Business Chamber actively supported the leasing of poles and wires that the then Premier Mike Baird took to the 2015 election because, apart from unlocking much needed funds, 30% of the money was promised to be spent in regional NSW,” Mr Cartwright said.
“Latest figures released indicate that the current figure is actually hovering at around 19%.
“The way it works is that, before any infrastructure project gets underway, a benefit cost ratio (BCR) assessment is done. Put simply, this is an assessment to see if the benefits of a project exceed the costs. If the benefits exceed the costs, the BCR is said to be greater than 1.
“Bureaucrats within the NSW Public Service will tell you that unless the “sacred” benefit cost ratio (BCR) assessment yields a score of one or higher, a proposed project will not receive NSW Government funding.
“Infrastructure NSW has advised that the reason a lot of proposed regional infrastructure spending proposals fail to get approved is because when the BCR process is undertaken the numbers don’t stack up.
“However, it is clearly not always possible to quantify all of the benefits of a particular project. For example, what price should governments put on delivery of clean water, or infrastructure such as improvements to dangerous country roads, which save lives?
“The intention behind applying a BCR is sound enough, however it should be only one measure, not the only measure of whether a project should be funded or not.
“Expertise in the delivery of major infrastructure is arguably more important, and regional NSW is not getting what it was promised from the NSW Government,” Mr Cartwright said.