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Sinn Féin challenges British Minister to justify Economic assessment.

12 February, 2004

Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has stated that the latest labour force figures, which were accompanied by one of the shortest ministerial press releases on record, are "economical with the truth". They are notable not for what they said but for what they left out.

Mr McLaughlin said

"It is indeed ironic that on the same day that he announces that industrial de-rating is to go ahead that the Minister throws down the challenge to business when he states 'Businesses will need to do more to rise to the challenge of being more innovative'. Utter arrogance! Businesses are attempting to compete with some of the highest energy costs within the EU, which are a direct result decades of government mismanagement during 30 years of Direct Rule and are now facing increased rates. All of these negative factors are not a result of business's lack of innovation but rather governments lack of focus, itself a symptom lack of accountability amongst direct rule ministers.

"This is 'head in the sand' economic policy-making. The figures have been misinterpreted to fit the argument. In Sinn Fein's view we are beginning to see the outworking of PriceWaterhouseCoopers warning to government that the economy has a 'veneer of economic prosperity'. What is government doing about this, aside from platitudes to those attempting to grow businesses in the hostile environment perpetuated by British government policies?

"The extension of industrial de-rating to the North is evidence of the failure of the 'one policy fits all' mindset of the Direct Rule administration. Limavady and Derry are not Ian Pearson's Dudley South constituency. Economic policies must be tailored to the regions requirements they cannot be imposed willy nilly upon communities.

"There was absolutely no reference to the continuing decline in jobs within the North West region which is now beginning to extend north eastwards to Limavady. These facts failed to fit the spin imposed upon the figures that 'employment is at near record levels'. Here we can see the influence of the civil servants who beaver behind the scenes briefing the minister on the increasing 'successes' of their failed policies.

"If Ian Pearson took time to analyse the statistics he would see the decrease of 20,000 in total employment within the North of Ireland as a key indicator of the structural weakness.

Statisticians always warn of the dangers of interpreting too much from one set of data but the upward trend in unemployment is clear within Derry and Limavady. Sinn Fein challenges Ian Pearson to explain how the 5% rise in unemployment in Derry and the 10% rise in Limavady during the last year fits within his assessment that Œoverall the NI economy has performed well during recent times" ENDS

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