Belfast Telegraph

Spending boost aids recovery

By Simon Hamilton

At long last, Northern Ireland is starting to show signs that it is emerging from one of the longest and most difficult economic downturns in history.

Unemployment is falling. Employment is up. Business activity across all sectors is accelerating. Tourism visitor numbers and revenue is on the rise. And the housing market is showing movement.

The road back to recovery will be long and difficult. Some sectors are still struggling, notably the construction industry.

But, in spite of the challenges we continue to grapple with in terms of reduced public expenditure, I have been able to make yet another substantial contribution on behalf of the Executive.

In-year redistributions and allocations of capital spending for next year will inject more than £250m into our economy.

This spending will transform our road, health, education and environmental infrastructure. Key projects I've confirmed include:

* a new children's hospital at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast – a facility which will be accessed and utilised by families across Northern Ireland;

* dualling of eight kilometres of carriageway on the A26 outside Ballymena;

* the A31 Magherafelt bypass project;

* the replacement of the Strangford and Rathlin ferries;

* £4.1m of investment in heritage-led development and

* £12m additional investment in our further and higher education estates.

I am also pleased that the Executive has agreed further funding of £14m to the Department of Health to reflect the high priority that the Government continues to attach to quality healthcare.

This much-needed money will allow hospitals to address elective care pressures in a range of specialities and reduce waiting lists.

These allocations will leave a lasting economic impact on Northern Ireland and help as the recovery gathers momentum.

They will sustain and create jobs. They will aid our recovery. They will develop our infrastructure and add a competitive edge.

They will generate opportunities for all. And they will provide help for the vulnerable.

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