Belfast Telegraph

Let Northern Ireland run its own economy

By Daithi McKay

Former finance minister Sammy Wilson wrote last week that devolving further economic powers to the north would threaten the Assembly. Surprisingly, he didn't produce a single economic argument why devolving more financial levers would endanger the institutions.

With the Executive facing tough choices as a result of the British Government cutting funding to the Assembly, those extra taxation powers would be extremely helpful.

In July, the Executive was forced to defend frontline services, particularly health and education, because of cuts to the block grant.

This has led to other departments facing reductions and, with the limited fiscal powers available to us, we are trying to address these budgetary challenges with one hand tied behind our backs.

Sinn Fein opposition to welfare cuts in the north is not dictated by political considerations in the south, or vice versa. We oppose attacks on the living standards of the sick, people with disabilities, the low paid and the unemployed across the island because it is the right thing to do.

British economic policy has never benefited the north, as all major economic decisions are made to benefit the 97% of the British economy – not the 3% in the north of Ireland.

We need an independent, comprehensive review of fiscal policy. Unionist politicians seem to be adhering to Westminster budgetary diktat, instead of standing up for the needs of business and the rights of workers.

Harmonising policies, laws and structures across the island would provide the opportunity for fair, progressive taxation, regulation and trade, and encourage a better business climate and entrepreneurial spirit north and south.

This is not a constitutional position, as the mechanism to implement a border poll is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.

This is about building economic growth and delivering jobs. The north is not as British as Finchley – nor is its economy.

We must collectively place the economy front and centre. Let's demand the powers to grow an economy that reflects our unique circumstances.

Daithi McKay MLA is chair of the Stormont finance committee

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