A prosperous Northern Ireland is based around private enterprise, job creation and increased exports. This is difficult in the current economic climate. However, we believe that investment in skills and infrastructure and support for successful sectors will help boost the economy. Our economy is also held back by the costs of division. An independent report argued that division costs Northern Ireland £1.5bn each year and it is difficult to attract investors to a divided region. Tackling a divided society and creating economic prosperity go hand-in-hand. Our first step to economic growth must be a joined-up approach to the economy. That is why we support creating a single Minister for the Economy, with responsibility for Enterprise and investment as well as skills. This single department would be able to deliver a comprehensive programme for economic reform. Our proposals to boost the economy in Northern Ireland include:
- A Green New Deal to stimulate investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency; helping to tackle climate change and creating thousands of jobs in hi-tech industries.
- Tax-varying powers for the Assembly to stimulate economic growth. This would include corporation tax but also other taxes which have an economic impact.
- Supporting small businesses with less regulation and making it easier for them to bid for procurement contracts.
- A strategic approach to spending money on infrastructure so that we can offer investors the facilities they need to set-up in Northern Ireland.
- Putting pressure on banks and government departments to make money available for small businesses to expand.
- Supporting industries where Northern Ireland has significant potential such as; agriculture and food, cultural industries, ICT, tourism and the social economy. This will help us develop world-leading industries in these sectors.
- Protect town centres and high streets by supporting independent shops, keeping business rates low and opposing charges for on-street parking.
The EU has played, and can continue to play, a significant role in allowing Northern Ireland to grow. A single market, with well-structured support for innovation, infrastructure and skills, helps support the economy to grow. And the bigger the market, the better the opportunity for Northern Ireland to trade. Being a central player in the EU has helped the economy to grow; not being in the EU would seriously harm our economy. Alliance will continue to make the pro-European case.