Anna Lo MLA stated: “During the consultation on the draft Programme for Government, Alliance opposed it on three counts: it failed to prioritise tackling segregation; it made no proposals to indicate true emphasis on the economy; and it didn’t pledge to deliver public services sustainably. Only our United Community group voted against the final Programme for Government.
“We have long called for the Programme for Government to be revised. It should not have taken such a deep economic crisis to encourage other parties to back us on that point. We need to prioritise the green economy as a means of coming out of recession with a competitive advantage over neighbouring regions.
“That means setting high standards for energy efficiency within the public sector, removing red tape from procedures for implementing renewable energy schemes and funding universities to carry out research on new green technologies. In those ways, Northern Ireland could become a centre for green economic services.
“It is feared that the Northern Ireland economy may decline by up to 3% this year, with little chance of recovery until next year. Unemployment may reach 50,000, with approximately 16,000 job losses within the year. We are facing the worst economic crisis since the mid-1970s. Compared to other UK regions, we have a much larger public sector, and the Executive must do what they can to help the local economy to survive this economic trauma.
“A green road out of recovery is required. We need more funding for the warm homes scheme, which will improve house insulation and provide more efficient heating systems to help to cut the costs of people’s energy bills. Furthermore, we need to encourage the construction sector to build energy-efficient homes.
“Also, improving public transport would not only meet increased demand, as more people are using services during the downturn, but help the environment by reducing our carbon footprint. Sustainability must be at the core of any revised version of the Programme for Government and budget.”