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Sinn Féin demand designation of North West as an 'area of exceptional need' to assist economic development

21 July, 2005

Sinn Fein Economy Spokesperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin writing in
Today's Derry News has argued for a long-term strategic response to the
economic development of the North West and the designation of the region as
an area of exceptional need to enable special initiatives to encourage
investment, promote and create employment.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The hype about the buoyancy of the North's economy is designed to conceal
the serious weaknesses in our local and regional economy. Close analysis of
the Northwest economy demonstrates that the area continues to experience
erosion of its economic base with both increased unemployment and a widening
prosperity gap between the haves and the have-nots

"A comparison of the six council areas (all West of the Bann) identified by
Invest NI (INI) as the six most income-deprived and employment-deprived
areas shows that they have received less financial assistance and will
receive less planned investment in total than the wealthy parliamentary
constituency of South Belfast alone. This is simply unacceptable.

"A calculation of the financial assistance by Invest NI per head of
population shows that the six council areas identified received on average
investment by INI of £5,752 per person living in those council areas
compared to £27,054 or nearly five times this amount, for each person living
in the affluent South Belfast.

"It is time that Invest NI stopped making excuses and got on with the job of
supporting economic development in areas that are most in need.

"The weakness in the Derry economy shows that:
· There is a high rate of out-migration by traditional manufacturing
· The "unemployment" rate of 5.4% is double the North of Ireland average
· The Northwest has the highest Economic Inactivity rate in the North of
Ireland and Britain - 38%

"The haemorrhaging of jobs and shrinkage in manufacturing base is set to
continue unless we take responsibility for promoting the Region and creating
the atmosphere that will attract inward investment as well as encourage
indigenous entrepreneurial activity.

"Sinn Fein will continue to lobby for the development and expansion of the
principal third level education institutions such as Magee University, North
West Institute of Further and Higher Education, Limavady College of Further
and Higher Education and the Letterkenny Institute of Technology as
essential drivers for economic growth in the Northwest Region.

"The latest figures show that the North West region had nearly 1000
redundancies during 2004 and has lost over 6,000 manufacturing related jobs
in the past 7 years. The financial loss this represents to the local economy
is frightening.

"It is time for a policy change that designates the North West region as an
area of exceptional need.  This will enable special initiatives to encourage
investment, promote and create employment and improve the overall prosperity
for the people of the North West.

"The priorities should focus on the renewal and revival of our regional
economy. As a start Invest NI should locate its Headquarters in the North
West. This policy change should focus on:
· Growth of established indigenous enterprises
· Encouraging investment from the rest of the island of Ireland
· Development and growth of Social Economy
· Incentives for research and development
· Seeking Foreign Direct Investment
· Improve access to business finance particularly for indigenous business
· Investment in essential skills
· Encourage the competitiveness of disadvantaged neighbourhoods through
support for locally nurtured/incubated enterprises

"The key issues to be addressed in the Northwest are:
· Lack of jobs
· Low wages
· Economic inactivity rates
· Industrial De-rating
· Lack of public investment

"The level of economic inactivity is a measure of higher poverty level that
exists throughout the Northwest. Some 25,000 people in Derry are currently
living in poverty. The removal of Industrial De-rating without a structured
form of assistance to Small and Medium Enterprises in our current economic
climate could contribute to further economic inactivity, business failures
and job losses. This could pose a further a significant risk to our regional

"We need economic investment to build a regional economy focused on R&D,
agriculture, tourism, fishing, IT, data processing, bio- technology and
pharmaceutical research and production to ensure action and a change of
focus in favour of indigenous and social economy development.

"The socio-economic crisis that currently exists within the North West
Region demands significant intervention and investment by both governments.
Sinn Fein is demanding the area be designated as an area of exceptional
economic need and as a priority job creation zone.

"The North West Region over the past 30 years has suffered economic
discrimination and neglect in terms of public expenditure, new investment
opportunities and job creation. It's time that this situation is reversed
but it will take co-operation by all the stakeholders and political leaders
in the region to make it happen." ENDS

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