The following is an edited version of Sinn Fein’s proposals for the Six-County economy which were published today.
Ireland faces many challenges presented by the current global economic recession, in addition to the historic legacy of partition where we have two failing economies competing back-to-back on an island with a population of 6.2m people. In the North the Assembly and Executive has limited fiscal powers which is both unacceptable and unsustainable. The Dublin Governmment’s record of squandering unprecedented wealth has left the need for a complete rethink of how Ireland governs its economic destiny. Partition has failed and continued partitionist economics will fail another generation. An All-Ireland economic recovery plan is required to deliver sustainable long lasting economic growth with greater economic equally.
Sinn Fein believes economic recovery requires a radical reshaping of how Government, the private and the public sectors have traditionally operated, in order to best serve the needs of citizens. The financial institutions have social responsibilities also.
We face important challenges as a society emerging from conflict. The local and all-Ireland political institutions need to deliver the necessary social and economic change that is required for our society.
It is critical that we continue to deliver frontline public services in health, education and transport; invest in capital infrastructure projects; ensure adequate housing for all and end poverty and disadvantage across urban areas and rural communities. We need strategies to end inequality and deliver a more equal and prosperous society.
We are presenting economic proposals, which we believe will decisively tackle the current public expenditure deficit, avoid unnecessary cuts in frontline public services, save jobs across the public, private and voluntary sectors and stimulate the local economy towards immediate recovery now and future sustainability.
Sinn Fein believes that the Tory-led coalition government in Britain is adopting the wrong approach by trying to cut its way out of recession, and that will seriously damage and set back economic recovery.
This is a clear choice between trying to cut your way out of a recession versus investing your way out of a recession. Many governments, including the US, have chosen the latter. Sinn Fein believes that we need to tackle the recession by a strategic approach which invests to save jobs, tackles waste and inefficiencies, and promotes investment in infrastructure.
The danger of a slash and burn approach to reducing budget deficits is that it will have relatively little effect on the actual budget deficit but will increase unemployment. As employment and income then decline, budget deficits will actually get worse because of reduced tax revenue: the worst of both worlds.
The economic crisis has led to greater inequality within our society. Inequality not only creates serious social problems and instability. Inequality is an economic threat to our society. It must be addressed.
There is an opportunity presented in the Assembly and across civic society including the public, private, voluntary/community sectors and trade union movement, to unite to resist the Tory imposed cuts.
Sinn Fein is presenting our economic proposals to help protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society from Tory cuts. If the Executive acts together, we can ensure that we protect the public sector and maintain front-line services and grow our economy sustainably. We present these proposals as a positive and achievable alternative to the Tory slash and burn approach.
Sinn Fein Proposals
* Introduce tax varying and borrowing powers to enable the Executive to generate income and stimulate development.
* Implement the Review of Public Administration (RPA) delivering savings of £400 million pounds.
* Establish the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) saving £80 million over the next four years.
* Introduce a phone mast tax to generate £160 million over the next four years.
* Enable the Housing Executive to borrow £250 million per year from, amongst others,the European Investment Bank to fund social housing needs.
* Draw down an additional 100 million euro from the EU 7th Framework programme over the next two years to fund Research and Development and promote innovation.
* Maximise access to other EU funds, such as the Joint European Support for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) and Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas (JESSICA) and the PROGRESS Microfinance fund of 500 Million euro.
* Seek agreement from the four main banks to establish a Sustainable Economic Development Bond of £400 Million over the next 4 years, (25 Million per bank per year) as their contribution to the recovery from the economic crisis.
* Seek agreement with the Credit Union Movement to create a £100 million Social Fund targeted at growing indigenous business with social outcomes based on objective need.
* Reduce Ministerial and MLA salaries and expenses by 15%, saving £7.5 million over the next four years.
* Abolish additional remuneration for Chairs/Vice-Chairs of Assembly committees.
* Service provision should be provided on an all-island basis, reducing administrative duplication and costs.
* The Executive to establish an investment fund to revive and grow the economy, with a major focus on investing in SMEs, social enterprises, new technologies, the tourism industry and manufacturing designed for export.
* Implement “the Green New Deal” proposals, with the potential to create thousands of green collar jobs
* Environmental levy on plastic bags, to promote the “reduce, reuse, recycle” policy. (101 million euro has been raised in the 26 counties in the last five years.)
* Abolish unnecessary quangos and government arms-length bodies and reduce remuneration levels.
* End the use of external consultants for work which can be carried out by the Civil Service
* To safeguard public sector jobs and grow the economy, co-operation and a joint approach with the unions is essential.
* A pay freeze for public sector workers in the higher rate income tax bracket.
* Review of excessively high earnings in the public sector.