The party’s economy spokesperson said the combination of political instability, Brexit and budget cuts posed a risk of long-term damage, especially when considering the region was starting from a lower base.
“The talks process is drifting along with seemingly little concern for the impact of a vacuum of decision-making and reform on our public services and the economy. Developing the economy is crucial to delivering greater levels of resources for public services and providing opportunities, especially for young people.
“Despite some significant improvements over the past decade, the economic baseline in Northern Ireland is worse than the rest of the UK in most respects, including the economic growth rate, productivity, dependence on the public sector, economic inactivity and the employment rate. There is far too much complacency at present around the current unemployment figures. Northern Ireland is not benefitting from the global economic recovery as many others are doing.
“Political instability is holding back many reforms happening elsewhere, such as an industrial strategy or productivity plan. UK Government studies also show all regions will suffer under Brexit, but with Northern Ireland suffering the most. And this is before the implications of any hard border are taken into account.
“Budget decisions over the coming weeks will likely see health and education protected, with considerable inefficiencies not being sufficiently challenged, leaving other aspects of the public services to face disproportionate cuts. In terms of the economy, this means implications for Invest NI to attract new business, a further undermining of our crucial skills pipeline and frustrating infrastructure investment. Current budgetary proposals are designed to protect traditional patterns of spending and not strategic in being linked to programme for government objectives.
“There is a real danger this prolonging economic impasse is doing real damage to our long-term economic prospects. Voices in the business community are alert to these dangers. Northern Ireland is already at a lower base, and our prospects of catching up and even overtaking our competitor regions will become even more challenging.”