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Executive blasted for poor job in realigning economy

By Margaret Canning

The pay gap between the public and private sector shows a lack of progress in the bid to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy, it's been claimed.

Policymakers have attempted to redress Northern Ireland's historic dependence on the public sector for employment by strengthening the private sector. A cut in corporation tax has been mooted as one means of reducing the province's dependence on the public sector, but that has now been made conditional on a successful outcome to the present talks.

Northern Ireland Conversatives economy spokesman Johnny Andrews said the latest figures on public sector pay showed there had been "little genuine progress toward rebalancing the economy in Northern Ireland".

Around 30% of the workforce is employed in the public sector.

Mr Andrews said: "The size of the public sector, coupled with its generous salaries and pensions, crowds out private enterprise in Northern Ireland. The results are that we struggle to create a culture of entrepreneurship, our education system is not tailored sufficiently to providing skills for business and we create jobs more slowly than the rest of the UK."

He claimed much of the effort by the parties at Stormont was going towards preserving "a bloated, inefficent public sector".

"Instead, they should be taking the opportunity to reform the civil service, slim down bureaucracy and make government departments help rather than hinder business."

But Paul MacFlynn of thinktank Neri countered that it was incorrect to link a large public sector with a slow private sector.

According to the most recent quarterly employment survey, around 211,500 people, or just under 30% of the workforce, are currently employed in the public sector - a fall of 8,000 on 2008.

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