Stephen Farry stated:
“Alliance welcome the confirmation that the General Election will be held on 6th May. This is a critical election for both Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole. Alliance intends to fight this election on the issues, and the substance of policy. The central issue must be the economy.
“At the national level, there is a major challenge to sustain the economic recovery. The Government has had to increase public spending over the past 18 months to cushion the country from the worst of the recession. In the future, the resultant high levels of public debt cannot be sustained in a competitive economy. The key challenge is make the right call over how quickly that debt is paid off, through spending cuts and tax rises.
“Caution is required. The UK is trying to come out of its fiscal stimulus quicker than other countries. If this goes wrong, the economy could be toppled back into recession. The dangers in Northern Ireland of a so-called ‘double-dip’ recession are particularly acute given our large dependency on the public sector. Those in UCUNF arguing for rapid repayment of debt are not the friends of Northern Ireland.
“The second challenge is to modernise and restructure the Northern Ireland economy. Obviously, we have too great a dependency on the public sector. This is around 70%, one of the worst figures of any region in Europe. Only 3 out 12 UK regions are net contributors to the treasury, making this country one of the most unbalanced in Europe. Of these, Northern Ireland is most heavily dependent on fiscal transfers. Our productivity levels are too low.
“Locally, the opportunity to use the recent fiscal stimulus to launch a local Green New Deal has been squandered by cheap populism. Nevertheless, Alliance believes that marrying concern for climate change with new economy activity is central to our future.
“Furthermore, Alliance believes, like many local economists, that a lower rate of Corporation Tax would have the greatest impact in generating step-change in the local economy, through attracting better and high quality jobs. Alliance has always been consistent in calling for tax-varying powers for the Assembly.”