Grasp tax nettle and get a better future for us all
I have been involved in business in Northern Ireland for many years. I remember when school leavers and students expected to get a job immediately. Now, we have high youth unemployment.
Northern Ireland used to be a contributor to the UK Exchequer. Now we get a subsidy of £10bn, half our public expenditure.
What went wrong? Terrorist activity, over-reliance on old industries, a lack of inward investment in new industries, low cost foreign competition and direct rule combined to decimate our industrial base. Manufacturing jobs were replaced by jobs in the public and service sectors and many graduates left, never to return.
We now have the opportunity to start to address the decline and get back on the road to increased employment and wages and to reduce the annual subsidy. The people of Northern Ireland could hold their heads high as an example of how to transform an economy. How can this miracle be achieved? Lowering corporation tax is not a panacea for all our ills. We need a complete change in how we look at our future and to focus on what is essential to create well-paid, sustainable jobs. We have to make ourselves attractive to foreign investors by having a well-educated pool of labour and a local government that is receptive to the needs of industry.
The only one of these that is not in our hands is taxation and we are now in a position to get control of corporation tax powers, an opportunity that may not be repeated. If we do not grasp it future generations will pay the penalty. It is not a risk, the risk is in not doing it.
If we want a better future for our children we need to take all these steps even if it is at the cost of a reduction in Government spending in the short-term. Politicians need to set aside ideological differences and concentrate on creating wealth for the people.