Stormont failing Northern Ireland's economy
Northern Ireland's economy lags behind the rest of the UK because the Executive is failing the private sector.
One of its worst oversights, highlighted in a CBI report over two years ago, is its failure to put in place a pipeline of viable, shovel-ready infrastructure projects to exploit extra money provided by the Conservative Government to build better roads, rail links, hospitals and schools.
While the new M1/M2/M3 motorway interchange to be built at York Street in Belfast is a welcome development, we have seen no improvement in the Sydenham bypass in 60 years.
North Down and Strangford commuters suffer daily on this arterial route with bottlenecks at Dee Street and Knocknagoney.
A project to remove the traffic lights and improve that junction must be given immediate priority.
Similarly, new railway connections to the two Belfast airports would provide an obvious boost.
The Executive has no serious vision or plan for the economy and our current infrastructure is not fitting for a modern, 21st century country.
The outcome has consistently been tens of millions of pounds of spending postponed, because the Executive can't agree how to use it, or even losing cash altogether because it gets sent back to Westminster.
We had years of wrangles about projects like the A5 and sports stadia, while people who needed immediate help lost their jobs.
Spending money on construction impacts the economy quickly and effectively, particularly benefiting the local construction sector, which suffered so badly during the downturn, with every £1 spent generating almost £3 in the wider economy.
It also helps tackle competitiveness problems like high energy and transport prices, which cost us so many jobs and prevent more foreign direct investment.
The Executive should immediately establish a pipeline of projects, with money ring-fenced. There should be an emphasis on improving road and railway links, as well as providing cheaper energy and better telecommunications. Infrastructure, alongside the planned reduction in corporation tax, is key to making Northern Ireland more competitive to create a dynamic private sector for jobs.
- Johnny Andrews, NI Conservative Party