Future economic planning must prioritise all-island investment in green technology and infrastructure which has the capacity to create thousands of new jobs and secure Ireland's long term economic stability.
The SDLP has identified measures to tackle the economic downturn, create new jobs and restructure public spending to recoup over £400 million in our document "New Priorities in Difficult Times".
When economic conditions change, the budget management process needs to be adjusted. Sinn Féin and the DUP have so far failed to take any significant action.
New Priorities in Difficult Times: a summary
The world has changed dramatically since the Northern Ireland Executive finalized its 3-year Programme for Government and Budget in early 2008. Not only has there been a severe economic downturn and credit squeeze, but also the capital receipts upon which much of the Budget was based have not materialised.
In short, the Executive’s Budget has been completely undermined - the assumptions underpinning it are no longer realistic, and the priority targets it has set will not be met unless there is considerable change.
The SDLP is calling on the Executive to revisit its spending priorities. However, the DUP and Sinn Féin refuse to change anything. It is not credible for them to argue that to divert extra resources into priority areas would mean cutbacks in health and education and therefore change cannot be considered. If the Executive is serious about achieving its economic and social objectives then the Programme for Government and Budget need to be recast.
Doing nothing is not an option. More jobs, more houses, more nurses mean a stronger economy.
The Executive has a fairly straightforward role as a government: it has no powers of taxation, no currency to manage and no leverage over interest rates.
Therefore, it is all the more vital that it manages its one economic lever - public expenditure - optimally.
In managing public expenditure in the economic downturn we must:
In December 2010 we produced our second economic document entitled 'Partnership and Economic Recovery' which identified more than £4 billion in savings and new revenue.
Partnership and Economic Recovery
The SDLP does not accept that we just allocate the CSR budget as it stands. There is a lot we can do to help ourselves and to close the £4 billion shortfall.
The SDLP’s budgetary proposals will identify more than £4 billion in efficiency savings expenditure reductions, new revenue streams and capital receipts money that will help tackle the economic challenge in Northern Ireland. In addition we will spend £395 million of new money on immediate priorities. Overall our aims are to
(i) protect frontline services and vulnerable households
(ii) provide an economic stimulus package with a focus on jobs
The SDLP’s plans will rule out the need for water charges and any hikes in student fees. Although we have identified significant public sector efficiency savings, we also believe this can be achieved without the need for compulsory redundancies.
We present an open agenda for partnership discussions that can lead to an agreed budget for four years. There is an 8 week consultation between now and when a budget must be agreed.
Protecting Frontline Services and Vulnerable Households
SDLP is committed to maintaining the following front line services at their current level.
(i) current services in Health and Social Services
(ii) housing, fuel poverty and ‘supporting people programmes’;
(iii) Neighbourhood Renewal funding;
(iv) programmes aimed at community regeneration and rural poverty
(v) support for programmes administered by voluntary and community sector; benefit uptake and social security services
(vi) Special Educational Needs.
We also propose additional spending on fuel poverty, social housing, unemployed youth, extended schools and other programmes that help the vulnerable.
Read the full document at http://www.sdlp.ie/images/files/Partnership_and_Economic_Recovery.pdf