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Hamilton is in denial if he thinks Northern Ireland will become a world economic powerhouse in the future

letter of the day: ministerial hyperbole

Published 09/09/2016

Simon Hamilton's exclusive for the Belfast Telegraph (September 5) headlined "Northern Ireland was once one of the world's economic powerhouses… I believe that we can be again" and coming in the wake of the 250 further redundancies from Caterpillar suggested a minister with a decidedly rose tint to his glasses.

Northern Ireland a future world economic powerhouse… really? If Mr Hamilton took a school atlas map of the world, located the UK and then looked for Northern Ireland he could more than cover it with the head of a pin.

Those industries and the economic circumstances which made NI an "economic powerhouse" such as shipbuilding, textiles and the aircraft industry are either long since gone, in terminal decline or on the move.

We have a population of 1.8m and NI cannot support itself without a £10bn subvention from Westminster. There is only so much growth in the service sector and in manufacturing we can achieve and continually leaning on the success of Wrightbus, Powerscreen or Randox as an examples for the future is disingenuous.

In February 2016 the ONS reported that the productivity gap between the UK and the rest of the Western world is widening and within the UK, productivity in NI lags behind other areas, which, as PwC noted at the time, makes our productivity among the lowest in the developed world.

It also does not help when we have the two parties of government sending mixed messages on the consequences of Brexit to potential investors. Even the untested 'silver bullet' of corporation tax is coming under pressure as other areas seek to lower their CT headline rate and erode the competitive gap.

Far too many jobs created here are low paid and part time and we have a disproportionately high number of economically inactive people in our population.

Of course saying such things immediately invites scathing political criticism as damaging NI's economic prospects and talking down job and investment opportunities.

Equally, an Economy Minister who majors in hyperbole while in denial of the reality around him should not expect to be taken seriously either.

Observer

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