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Pearson's budget short-changes potential of regional development

21 December, 2004

Sinn Fein Regional Development Spokesperson and Assembly member for Foyle, Raymond McCartney has described Finance Minister, Ian Pearson's budget proposals as 'ludicrous'. Speaking after travelling to Derry on one of NIRs newly launched carriages, Mr.McCartney commented:

"It is both ironic and disappointing that after travelling on this the first of 23 new train carriages acquired by Translink, to learn that Ian Pearson betrayed Draft Priorities of October 1st 2004 and decreased the Department for Regional Development budget by 8.8%.

"The figures put forward by the Minister in October of this year were clearly not even close to redressing more than three decades of neglect of the transport and water infrastructure in the North of Ireland. With the announcement of this revised budget, the Minister is clearly out of touch with the concerns raised in the four hundred submissions he received. This type of governance is not acceptable and it is certainly not accountable. To suggest that there is an increase in this budget is dishonest.

"The British Government stated three key areas that this budget would address: economic competitiveness; building equality and community cohesion; and better public services

"Yet it is impossible to see how decreasing investment from £483.4m to 385.4m over 2005-8, will improve economic competitiveness on our outdated rail network. Where is the vision to develop freight or maximise the potential of the two strategically positioned distribution sites in the ports of Lisahally in Derry and Larne.

"The potential to develop an all-Ireland network to deliver a rail and transport service to major urban population centres as well as rural communities. The Belfast-Dublin Corridor must be allied to a Western Corridor, linking Derry to all major transport routes right along the West of Ireland. Our rural communities are among the most socially and economically deprived yet this budget does not hold out much hope for the regeneration our rural communities, which can only be built upon an accessible rural transport network.

"This budget and Investment Strategy will not promote equality or community cohesion because the most vulnerable in our society will suffer severe hardship from the double taxation of the Water Charge. These plans are not driven by an EU Directive on Water & Waste Treatment. The Minister knows that the imposition of this double levy is a serious cause for concern.

"Privatising our services is not the answer. The reliance of PFI and PPP to

develop our services will not deliver the services we so desperately need.

Unaccountable Direct Ministers and non-elected bodies such as the Strategic

Investment Board are making key decisions now about the future." ENDS

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