Wed 1st Apr 2015
Mar 15: Political parties must put economy at top of agenda
In Northern Ireland it can be said that we are never too far away from an election and indeed next month’s Westminster poll is the second in a 3 year cycle of elections. This time we are electing our representatives who will take their seats – or not – in the House of Commons. While the Assembly elections next year will determine the shape of our own government and legislature, next month’s election represents an important opportunity to examine the policies of the local parties.
It may take a generation of new voters to come onto the electoral register before we genuinely move away from elections traditionally revolving around religious affiliations but in the coming weeks local parties are each set to publish a manifesto which headlines their stance on a range of policy issues, including the economy. As voters and as business representatives, we have a duty to challenge the political parties on those policies and to encourage our politicians as they propose new means of regenerating our economy.
We are told that the Executive parties have put the economy ‘at the heart’ of the Programme for Government. That was a welcome commitment but does it still hold true some 4 years later? The local and global context in which our economy operates has changed since then and we are now potentially at the edge of a sustained economic recovery.
This presents a challenge to our elected representatives; how best can we ensure that our economy does grow, in a regionally balanced and sustainable way? It is not enough to stake all on the devolution and reduction of corporation tax. If Northern Ireland is to maximise the opportunities of the potential increased investment, we need to provide a flow of qualified employees into the new jobs which we hope will materialise.
How will we finance and provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate new enterprise and provide foundations for growth?
These are issues which for the most part fall under the devolved institutions so it would be fair to say that next year’s collection of manifestos will be more relevant. Nevertheless an election of any kind is an opportunity to test new ideas, to interrogate policy positions and, indeed, to encourage policy makers to explore new initiatives and proposals.
If we want the parties to keep the economy at the heart of the political agenda we need to let them know that – loud and clear.