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Executive U-turn only hope for Northern Ireland

By Johnny Andrews

Published 09/02/2016

Johnny Andrews is a spokesman for the NI Conservatives
Johnny Andrews is a spokesman for the NI Conservatives

We wish Arlene Foster success in her duties as First Minister and urge her to emphasise creating jobs and growing the economy.

Sadly, over her seven years as the Enterprise Minister and then at the Department of Finance (DFP), Mrs Foster's performance was distinctively underwhelming.

Just last month, as her last hurrah at DFP, she announced a budget which, more or less, ignored the priority of private sector growth and instead pandered to a Left-wing, Sinn Fein agenda.

While the rest of the UK has enjoyed a healthy recovery thanks to the Conservative Government's economic plan, Northern Ireland has lagged behind.

Our economy has become less competitive, red tape has proliferated and little has been done to deal with high energy costs or poor air connectivity. In my own constituency, Strangford, there has been a jobs "meltdown" in outlying areas. It's a pattern repeated in other parts of Northern Ireland as the private sector struggles with its lack of competitiveness.

As Finance Minister Mrs Foster chose to continue her party's policy of depriving the Department of Education of funding to give our young people the skills they need.

On the other hand, where there are real opportunities to deliver savings - for example by merging Northern Ireland's teacher training colleges - the DUP and its partners in Sinn Fein refuse to deliver.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, which should have been driving Northern Ireland's private sector recovery under Mrs Foster instead concentrated on high-profile announcements about golf tournaments and call centre jobs.

The truth is that an entirely different culture is needed within our Executive to create a thriving, dynamic and prosperous Northern Ireland. Only centre-Right politics, concentrating on growing the private sector and empowering businesses, can deliver sustainable jobs and prosperity.

That means making Northern Ireland work, focusing on competitiveness and devolving corporation tax quickly. If Arlene Foster cannot bring these changes about, the Executive will continue to let down voters.

Johnny Andrews is economy spokesman for the NI Conservatives

Belfast Telegraph

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