Caoimhe Archibald: DUP's failed policies 'won't deliver post-Covid economic recovery'
FOR almost 15 years the DUP has led the department responsible for economic development.
During that time, the north's economic performance has remained stubbornly poor, the lowest economic growth and lowest productivity in these islands. One fifth of workers in the north earn less than a basic living wage and the labour market in the north is characterised by low-paid jobs and less secure employment – hence the lowest productivity.
The DUP championed Brexit. After the referendum they aligned themselves with the most right-wing elements of the Tory party to deliver a hard Brexit, against the best interests and democratically expressed wishes of the majority of people here. They opposed every iteration of Brexit that would have lessened the impact on the north.
Since Brexit came into effect last January, the DUP has railed against the protocol, which was painstakingly negotiated to mitigate against the worst excesses of Brexit. The protocol prevents a hard border on this island, it protects the Good Friday Agreement, north-south cooperation and the all island economy.
While there have been problems with the implementation of the protocol, many businesses here have been protected by it and have been able to take advantage of the opportunities of continued access to the EU single market. There has been a huge increase in trade across the island over the past year and significant interest from potential investors.
However, the DUP economy ministers (all three of them) have completely ignored the potential benefits of the protocol. They have put short-sighted ideology ahead of the economic wellbeing of businesses, workers and families. They have repeatedly refused to engage with the opportunities, they have no strategy to maximise the benefits or to harness the increased all-island trade, to bring investment and create jobs.
Over the past week, the devastating impact of the loss of EU funding as a result of the Brexit championed by the DUP, has been laid bare. The department for the economy is losing £65 million per year in EU structural funds, including £40 million for core department business.
The DUP economy minister has 'modelled savings' to make up for the 'huge hole' in his departmental budget. This will completely undermine the economic recovery and his own economic strategy which requires investment in skills and innovation. These proposals include slashing university and apprentice places, cutting student support and hiking university fees, as well as ceasing new business support.
The three DUP economy ministers have also made no moves to implement the workers’ rights commitments in New Decade New Approach to strengthen worker's protections and enhance their terms and conditions, this along with investing in skills is key to improving productivity.
The DUP's tired and failed policies will not deliver the economic recovery needed post Covid.
The DUP is bad for business, bad for our economy and it is time for change.
We need economic strategies that will support businesses, sustain existing jobs and create new ones, support workers and families providing more opportunities for our young people; that will maximise the opportunities of the protocol and all-island economy and that will prioritise a green recovery to effectively tackle the climate crisis.
Caoimhe Archibald is chair of the Stormont economy committee and Sinn Féin's economy spokesperson