Economic and social imbalances must be addressed and corrected as part of Northern Ireland’s recovery plan, says SDLP economy spokesperson Sinead McLaughlin.
The Foyle MLA asked the Minister for the Economy whether she will give a commitment to the appointment of representatives from the north west to her reformed economic advisory group to assist the group in developing policies to redress existing economic imbalances.
In her response, Dianne Dodds could not give that commitment. She said the Economic Advisory Group is being re-established to assist her in developing a new economic strategy and to provide ongoing advice on how to grow the economy.
She added that members will be appointed on the basis of their knowledge, experience and expertise, and will be expected to act and advise on the wider Northern Ireland economy interests rather than their own sectoral or geographical interests.
Sinead McLaughlin was disappointed with that response, she said: “Northern Ireland has serious inequalities and removing these must be a priority for the Department for the Economy and its minister.
"So I am very disappointed that the minister has rejected my requests for this to be a core part of the remit for her Economic Advisory Group and for that group to contain representatives from the North West, who could provide specialist expertise and understanding of these inequalities.
“It is unacceptable that for years, indeed decades, that Derry and the North West suffer the highest levels of unemployment and the hidden unemployment that is called economic inactivity. This must be addressed and it is astonishing to find that we are still hearing arguments that the wider economic interests of Northern Ireland are being considered without addressing the very serious problems of high unemployment and poverty that exists in the North West.
“I hope that despite the minister’s response that the Economic Advisory Group will make it a priority to consider how to ensure that the parts of Northern Ireland with the highest unemployment and poverty are supported to achieve the highest levels of growth and recovery. We know from experience that in recessions it is the areas with the weakest economies that usually suffer the most.
“There must be additional investment in skills and infrastructure to support the North West achieve a proper economic recovery. The Economic Advisory Group must have the courage and independence to say that and as a core part of their work to identify the sectors which offer the best prospects for increased employment, productivity and growth. It is unacceptable for Derry, Strabane and the rest of the North West to be simply told to put up with more of the same.”
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