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Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy: Improved industrial strategy required



Simon Hamilton

Simon Hamilton

Simon Hamilton

I n January 2017, the DUP Economy Minister Simon Hamilton published a draft Industrial Strategy. A new strategy was certainly needed as the previous Economic Strategy issued by Arlene Foster produced economic growth of approximately 1% here compared to 1.5% in Britain and over 5.5% in the south of Ireland.

A logical starting point for the Industrial Strategy would be to understand why the previous Economic Strategy led to the lowest rate of economic growth in these islands.

But it contains no such reflection. Instead, in a chapter entitled 'Our Improving Economy', the Industrial Strategy misleadingly presents the north as a roaring success.

Perhaps Minister Hamilton was reluctant to be seen to criticise his party leader but if faults are not admitted, lessons are unlikely to be learned.

The very notion of an Industrial Strategy should itself indicate a potentially significant shift in thinking.

For almost four decades, Enterprise Policy (how government shapes the broad economic environment) has been favoured over Industrial Policy (support for specific industries). But amid historically low economic growth, Industrial Policy is making a comeback.

Minister Hamilton went with the trend but, instead of providing programmes of support tailored to the particular needs of different industries, his Industrial Strategy reverts to the notion of applying a standard set of Enterprise Policies, described as five 'pillars for growth'.

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The proposed actions, such as providing "support for communities and individuals facing disadvantage", are utterly bland.

A proper Industrial Strategy requires rigour and an attention to detail.

These are not qualities typically associated with the DUP's decade in control of the main economic Department.

DUP ministers comfortably talked the language of the business community and confidently recited economic statistics which gave the appearance of success.

But underneath the spin and the swagger the north's economy continued to underperform.

When the Executive is restored a radical improvement in the Industrial Strategy will be required.

  • Conor Murphy is Sinn Fein spokesman for the economy