Sinn Féin Deputy Chair of the Assembly Enterprise Committee, Phil Flanagan has said that two reports released this week from the NI Retail Consortium and the “Households Below Average Income 2011/12” report published by the Department for Social Development (DSD) paint a bleak picture for economic prospects.
Phil Flanagan said:
“The DSD report ‘Households below Average Incomes’ in 2011-12, shows 21% of the population (379,000) in the North were in relative poverty before housing costs, and 24% of the population (422,000) were in absolute poverty before housing costs
“These figures are a stark illustration of the effects of decades of failed British Exchequer fiscal policies taking no account of economic conditions specific and unique to the North of Ireland. The results of a one size fits all approach to fiscal policy which ignores disparities between here and Britain, in income levels, cost of living and overdependence on the public sector exposes the myth that reliance on fiscal decisions taken in Whitehall best serves our interests. The present Tory austerity policies will only exacerbate and perpetuate this inequality.
Mr Flanagan continued:
“The second set of figures released this week from the NI Retail Consortium highlighting the reduction in footfall in town and city centres and figures from the Licensed Trade industry indicating that 174 Public Houses have closed in the past year demonstrate the challenges facing the retail, hospitality and service sectors.
“Given the extent of relative and absolute poverty revealed by the DSD ‘Households Below Average Incomes’ report it is unsurprising that the service and retail sectors are particularly under stress.
“It is time that the DUP Ministers responsible for the economy, Simon Hamilton in Finance and Arlene Foster in Enterprise take responsibility for stimulating the domestic economy by demanding transfer of the fiscal powers that will enable us to lift people out of poverty.
“It is long past time that we had the necessary tools to enable us to construct a just fair and equal economy in the North that will alleviate poverty, address disadvantage and build a better future. This is not possible while our ambition and imagination are restrained by British government fiscal policy.”