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Raising airport taxes will clip wings of business

If the spending-cuts imposed from Westminster have done anything, they have brought about broad agreement on the need to generate growth in the Northern Ireland economy.

However, our hopes of getting our economy going again will suffer a significant setback if plans by BAA to raise the Heathrow passenger levy by 50% to £20.25 go ahead next April.

We are the only region in these islands that is still in recession - and likely to remain there for up to two years.

Eighteen months ago, the SDLP published proposals for economic recovery which highlighted the importance of boosting tourism. But that is not the only area in which this higher levy can damage our prospects.

Our businesses have a particular dependence on air travel and anything which raises the price of connectivity is effectively a new tax on enterprise and, ultimately, on employment.

We should work towards a corporation tax rate of 12.5% in order to level the competitive playing-field on the island of Ireland.

Connectivity between these islands is another important competitive parameter which business organisations and the Executive should raise in economic discussions with London.

The SDLP will certainly be putting this at the forefront of our agenda in an attempt to force a rethink from BAA.

Our strategy is to find common cause on such issues and we'll be joining with our Scottish colleagues to ensure that your voice is heard in opposition to this disgraceful added travel tax.

FEARGHAL McKINNEY

Vice-chairperson, SDLP

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