Hamilton calls on Executive to accelerate major schemes to address recession

Simon Hamilton has called on the Executive to use major infrastructure schemes in response to the recession.
Ryan McAleer

FORMER economy minister Simon Hamilton has called on the Executive to accelerate major investment programmes in response to the UK recording its biggest ever slump to enter recession for the first time in 11 years.

The 20.4 per cent decline in UK gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter (April to June) is the biggest hit among the major global economies.

While the economy has effectively been in recession since the lockdown, it is not officially declared until two successive quarters of decline have been recorded. The UK recorded a 2.2 per cent drop in GDP in the first quarter (January-March)

The GDP slump in Northern Ireland is likely to be much more severe. The local economy traditionally recording steeper contractions than the UK as a whole.

A report produced by the Department for the Economy estimated in late June that the overall economic output in Northern Ireland is around 25-30 per cent below normal levels.

The UK’s GDP did bounce back by 8.7 per cent in June. But business groups and economists have cautioned the path of the recovery may not be smooth, given the threat of a second wave and possible further lockdowns, with a jobs crisis also on the horizon as the UK Government support measures come to an end.

Simon Hamilton, who served as Economy Minister before Stormont’s three-year hiatus, is now chief executive of Belfast Chamber.

He said while the official declaration of a recession did not come as a surprise, he described the scale of the downturn as “truly shocking”.

He said it should now spur the Executive into accelerating investment in key infrastructure projects to aid the recovery.

“It has been great to see more and more of our city’s economy reopening over recent weeks and months but Belfast Chamber is increasingly worried about the long term devastation that the coronavirus pandemic could have on the city’s economy in terms of job losses, business closures and a slow down in investment.”

He said: “The news today should spur the Executive into accelerating infrastructure schemes like the City Deal projects, the York Street Interchange and the Transport Hub that will not only create jobs during construction but will also help Belfast and the whole region on the road to long term recovery.”

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