The chancellor and the Conservative led government have managed to turn the economy around at a national level.
Northern Ireland is benefiting from some growth too, but currently we also have the highest rates of economic inactivity and the highest percentage of people claiming jobless benefits across the whole of the country.
There are signs that things are gradually improving. Unfortunately though, our private sector is still far too small to benefit fully from the improved economic picture. As a society it is important to grasp that a culture of enterprise and entrepreneurship is the key to prosperity.
With the right attitude toward creating jobs, we could be leading the UK’s recovery, rather than topping the table for unemployment.
The executive has nothing to be complacent about and to keep up with the rest of the UK, Stormont ministers need to implement business friendly policies which are aimed squarely at creating jobs. Unfortunately, for the most part, their record is not good.
The government has provided powers and cash to create enterprise zones, which act as hubs for new jobs and tools to grow important sectors of the economy, but the Executive has not used them. David Cameron offered money for construction projects which are ready to start, but ministers have not responded. They’ve also failed to make a credible start on combating the divisions in our society which put off investors.
The executive’s priorities should be jobs, jobs and, always, more jobs. It should be getting on with starting enterprise zones, aimed at helping companies who export goods to other countries and giving special support to research and development. It could start boosting the economy by building badly needed social houses, roads, hospitals and schools.
It should most definitely show a genuine commitment to building the shared and stable society which is so vital to a prosperous future.
Northern Ireland could be leading the UK recovery, rather than being towed along in its wake. What we need is an executive which shows teamwork, supports enterprise and makes creating jobs its top priority. The future is in our hands and we should lift our gaze and concentrate on trading with the world.