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Fiscal independence required - Mitchel McLaughlin MLA‏

31 March, 2008

Commenting on today's Assembly debate on the Varney Report Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has said that 'the absence of economic sovereignty is the biggest single obstacle facing the economy in the North'.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Varney concluded that we did not require special fiscal consideration because we were sufficiently competitive. In a clear contradiction we then had a second Varney review into the Competitiveness of the Northern Economy.

"It is no coincidence that while historically the North's economy has been determined by British Treasury policy we are and will remain the poorest region in these islands.

"The most recent statistics demonstrate that household incomes here are 20% below the average for equivalent regions and 32% below the average for London and South East England.

"Sinn Féin's view is that the absence of economic sovereignty is the biggest single obstacle facing the economy in the North. Fiscal policy, taxation and public expenditure, and the regulatory framework, are all set in London. The north is consequently excluded from the economic advances of the 26 Counties and tops the list on practically every deprivation indicator. Yet no special provision is made for a society just emerging from conflict with all the attendant social and economic disadvantages. The northern economy is unsustainable by itself.

"As the Varney Review panel will be aware the CBI, the Industrial Task Force and the Business Alliance in the North have all proposed actions which have been endorsed by cross party consensus to address existing inhibitors to economic development. This impressive level of harmony has emerged as the political process has delivered and sustained agreement on the restoration of the political institutions of the GFA.

"Sinn Féin welcomes any initiative which encourages all-island economy activity, whether from the two governments, political parties or business and industry. Economic development and infrastructural reintegration must be delivered in such a way as to create spatial equality throughout the island, leaving no region, particularly the west, north-west and border counties, underdeveloped. These areas have historically suffered the worst economic impact of partition and consequential conflict.

"Partition is wasteful and inefficient and involves duplication of government and public service structures. It imposes an unnecessary administrative burden on those wishing to do business in both jurisdictions, and creates barriers to economies of scale. In terms of each jurisdiction on the island of Ireland we are competing with ourselves for economic investment, as well as with the rest of the world. An all-island approach would eliminate this counterproductive anomaly regarding inward investment, eradicate the waste of duplication in the public sector, open up a wider market to business and generally enhance competitiveness on an all-Ireland perspective." ENDS

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