Investment plan to prioritise jobs
A new long-term £13.3 billion investment strategy for Northern Ireland will prioritise construction projects which create the most jobs, the Deputy First Minister has pledged.
Martin McGuinness said major building schemes initiated under the 10-year Stormont blueprint would also include social clauses to ensure local trainees and unemployed people were hired for the workforce.
Mr McGuinness presented the long delayed investment strategy to the Assembly after it was finally agreed by the Executive last month - more than a year after it was originally scheduled to be completed.
A draft of the plan went out for public consultation last autumn. Mr McGuinness said the final version had been "revised, strengthened and updated" in response to public feedback. The Sinn Fein minister said the agreed document would support 13,000 jobs and aim to redress regional economic imbalances across Northern Ireland.
"Where it is possible we will prioritise those infrastructure projects which contribute most to employment and make the biggest contribution to the wider economy," he told MLAs.
The strategy focuses on infrastructure projects in seven specific sectors - transport, health, education, social, environmental , productivity and justice. Of the £13.3 billion earmarked, £5.1 billion will be invested over the next four years.
Mr McGuinness said social clauses had been added to the strategy on the back of public feedback. He said: "These clauses require contractors to deliver employment and training opportunities for apprenticeships and the long term unemployed."
DUP Assembly member Peter Weir said: "This is a good news story for Northern Ireland. It is showing the Executive is working."
The SDLP's Alban Maginness welcomed many of the projects included in the plan but said it did not go far enough. He said there was a lack of focus on drawing down EU funds or on investment in the so-called green economy.
Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan criticised the delay in publishing the strategy, long after the Executive's priority-setting Programme for Government document. He said: "I question its true value given it's months after the publication of the Programme for Government and 17 months after the return of this Assembly - two events which you would have thought the 2011-2021 investment strategy should have sought to enter in tandem with."