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Sinn Féin publish details of Varney Review submission

26 July, 2007

Sinn Féin Economy and Finance Spokesperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking after the publication of the party's submission to the Varney Review has said that underlying structural weakness in the 6 county economy will only be addressed by a creative and innovative change in fiscal and economic policy.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Sinn Féin wants a strong and sustainable economy on the island of Ireland. This means building and maintaining an economic environment that enhances enterprise and job creation and provides favourable conditions for business to operate and for people to live and work. We believe this requires not just economic reintegration but also political and economic sovereignty.

"The North is the poorest region in these islands and compelling evidence demonstrates that the current policies will not address these structural weaknesses;

  • Average disposable household income is 20% below the average.
  • We have the highest proportion of economically inactive or unemployed people at 31% and a quarter of households derive 80% of their income from benefits.
  • Almost one quarter of our children (100,000) live in poverty.
  • The local economy is dependent on a £7bn plus annual subvention.

"Low levels of unemployment and continuing economic growth cannot mask the under-lying structural economic weaknesses. A creative and innovative policy change is required to rebalance the economy.

"Considering the legacy of conflict and the proximity of the strong economy in the 26 counties Sinn Féin believe we need a more flexible approach to fiscal policy. There is good consensus on the need for better economic and social infrastructure; to improve the skills base; support for innovation and R&D; and encouragement of enterprise. Sinn Fein believe economic policy needs to focus on growing the private sector and that drastic public sector cuts would actually damage the economy and private sector growth.

"We need proposals that provide both significant fiscal incentives to attract FDI and encourage higher levels of indigenous investment. Sinn Féin belives that fiscal flexibility, particularly a competitive rate of corporation tax, is needed to accelerate rates of inward investment and rebalance the economy.

"All of the parties in the Assembly have have acknowledges that the very different approach adopted in the South has had spectacularly successful results. The key driver has been its ability to control taxation and set a competitive rate of corporation tax. A good education system and industrial relations have also been beneficial but the North shares these features.

"It is time for a British Treasury response. While the British government has stated very clearly what they describe as considerable difficulties involved in moving to a discrete rate of corporation tax for the North they have not presented any viable alternative. Our priority must be to end to the North's long history as the poorest region on these islands. We want the dependency on a subvention incrementally reduced and to become self-sustaining.

"The Treasury must accept that existing economic strategies have not achieved progress. Existing measures are ineffective. The undeniable failure of a 'one-size fits all' approach demands an effective response from Treasury. The Executive must be given the tools to do its job." ENDS

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