It is essential the Executive has a comprehensive plan to tackle the issues relating to the pandemic, Brexit and other issues over the next year, Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has said.
Mr Muir was speaking after an Assembly debate on the need for a recovery and investment strategy, post-COVID-19. He said there was a unique opportunity on grasping a new dawn from the devastation of the pandemic.
“We are each holding onto the hope things will get better. From schoolchildren holding onto the hope they will soon be able to play with their friends, healthcare staff holding onto the hope the stress of working on the frontline during a pandemic will soon begin to reduce, over 60,000 unemployed people holding onto hope they will be able to find work to support themselves and their families, and the up to 16,000 clinically vulnerable individuals, many of whom are holding on to the hope of human contact with loved ones.
“There are strong reasons to encourage people to hold onto that hope. Our vaccination programme continues to accelerate rapidly. There is a careful and cautious exit in sight to restrictions, hopefully for good. And there is the prospect of at least some form of normality returning in the Iatter part of this year.
“That is why it is so important the Executive does not waste the opportunity to build on this moment. A comprehensive recovery plan should be put in place, with the ultimate aim of building a more prosperous, more caring and less divided society.
“We must support those sectors which have been most badly affected by the pandemic and which will need to continue to adapt, such as hospitality and public transport. We need to rejuvenate the high street and support city centre retailers in a society where more people work remotely. We need a skills plan for those out of work and those whose jobs have changed beyond recognition. And we need a strategy to support our businesses, hit not only by the pandemic but Brexit.
“These are the real and tangible issues that will face our society over the next 12 months, and it is imperative the Executive has a comprehensive plan to tackle them. We have a unique opportunity for a new dawn, and from the devastation of the pandemic we can build a society which is better and more inclusive than what came before.”