Sustainable Ideas for a Better Future
The Future of the Economy
The 2011-15 Programme for Government rightly identifies the economy as the Executives number one priority. This is a fine sentiment but one which must be backed up by actions, and ultimately improved outcomes. It is the responsibility of Stormont to create an environment whereby economic growth can be achieved, local businesses can flourish and jobs are being created. It is clear that there is much work still to do. The Ulster Unionist Party has a strong record on the economy, from being the first to hold the Enterprise, Trade and Investment portfolio following devolution to the importance of our current Ministerial post with responsibility for infrastructure. We led the calls for the devolution and subsequent lowering of Corporation Tax in order to help local businesses grow and attract foreign direct investment and we believe that this remains a key economic lever in the aim to rebalance the economy. We will continue our work in building a stronger, more vibrant economy.
The Case for Change
The economic climate in Northern Ireland must of course be viewed in a global context and in recognition of the current Eurozone crisis. However, that is not to say that local politicians can’t effect change for the better. It is well documented that we are over-reliant on the public sector which accounts for around 70% of contribution to GDP. We must work to redress this imbalance, not through slashing the public sector, but through supporting and growing the private sector and the social economy. We believe that Corporation Tax can play a significant role in lessening the dependence on the public sector; negotiations within the Ministerial Group seem to have led to vast increases in the potential cost to the Block Grant and the proposed timescale for agreement has now lapsed. If the First and deputy First Minister cannot deliver on this aim on behalf of the Executive then what is our Plan B?
The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland stands at 8.2%, which is above the UK average, with 63,100 people currently claiming unemployment related benefits. Whilst the Programme for Government sets a target to support the promotion of 25,000 by 2015, the scale of this challenge cannot be understated.
Current tourism figures are cause for concern with overseas visitors in the first quarter of this year down 13% compared to the same period in 2011. Given the various tourism opportunities within Northern Ireland presently, this illustrates the failure of some existing approaches.
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME’s) make up the vast majority of our business sector and in that respect they are the lifeblood of our economy. However, prospects for expansion and growth of MSME’s are currently being hindered through issues such as difficulties in accessing finance, inflexible public procurement processes and lack of opportunities in the export market.