Voucher scheme is well intended but ultimately a wasteful initiative
As well intended as the High Street Voucher Scheme is, once the event has passed I cannot see how this cash injection in the economy will have the economic effects our politicians claim. It should be seen for what it is – an experiment which, due to its scatter-gun approach, the outcome is unknown.
The real opportunity cost will be the targeted financial support that distressed businesses – primarily trading in the hospitality, tourism and affected retailers - badly needed, and the funding of public services.
All the civil servants had to do was get out there and talk to local businesses from double glazing installers through to garden centres and household furnishings and DIY retailers and they would have concluded that most were breaking trading records as the cash built up by NI consumers through a combination of furlough and lockdown was spent post-pandemic. Intervention to support these sectors of the economy through consumer spending was not necessary.
And one should consider that, say, £75 of every £100 voucher given to every Northern Ireland consumer will just finance the replenishment of inventory, with the retailer only receiving, say, £25 of every £100 voucher. If you think it through logically, the main beneficiaries of the high street voucher scheme will be the countries of manufacture of the goods being sold and the major national retailers.
I think we can all agree that this is not a good use of taxpayers’ funds, especially in Northern Ireland where many public services remain underfunded.
If Stormont had liaised with businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors and retailers who genuinely could not, and in some cases still cannot, trade as they did pre-pandemic, and gave these businesses targeted financial support to address accumulated and unsustainable debts where every £100 delivers £100 of benefit to the business, this would not only have been a far more effective use of taxpayers’ funds, but less costly.
But unfortunately, as we all know, photos of politicians holding giant credit cards goes down well with the voter - who doesn’t like free money?
When the economists etc review this initiative in years to come, I feel history will show the £140m given away will have had a marginal effect on our economy.
The sad thing is that businesses that genuinely needed targeted financial support to survive and could have been saved now won’t be.
Newry, Co Down
Our morals were not inscribed on two tablets of stone
It is a popular misconception, that the more charitable tenets of the New Testament replaced the genocidal, maniacal, misogynistic attributes of the Old. To those who peddle this myth, I reference Matthew 5:17-19, who cannot be clearer, when he tells us that, “not one letter, not one stroke of a letter” from the laws of the Old Testament can be changed.
This injunction is repeated many times by Jesus.
Fr McCafferty accepts this, as his latest letter (September 8), makes eight direct quotes from a mix of New and Old Testament sources.
He is not eulogising the love, or charity, as expressed by Jesus in the New Testament, but telling us “that it does not matter in the slightest whether 99.9 per cent of the world reject Christ’s teachings”, or that the Church is reduced to obscurity. This attempt to valorise his Church’s declining popularity through Biblical references obviates the awkward question of what God’s intention was when He created the universe. It lacks intellectual credibility to presuppose that failure was an option.
It also lacks candour to claim that our morals are Biblically mandated. Fr McCafferty (August 23) declared that, “He does not care one iota what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly premises”, regarding abortion, as, implicitly they are overridden by God’s commandments.
While this rejection of human rights will concern those who seek to improve human existence, it will not concern someone whose sense of morality is confined to a book in which justification for every immoral act can be found.
What moral spin can be put on Limbo (never mentioned in the Bible), to where the souls of unbaptised children were condemned? The word Limbo comes from the Latin ‘limbus’, meaning ‘edge’, the Church premising that these unfortunate children, having died before their inherited original sin was absolved, were closer to Hell than Heaven. Although never dogmatised, and now surreptitiously set aside, how much misery did this cause millions of grieving parents over the centuries?
It is time we accept that, however our morals evolved, they were not inscribed on two tablets handed to Moses 6,000 years ago in the desert.
Templepatrick, Co Antrim
Who will fund new hospitals?
I noted that Radio 4’s Today programme (September 12) gave details about the Wolfson Prize for the radical re-design of hospitals. Many, it seems, notwithstanding their great expense to build and run, are not fit for purpose. We know from experience that these ventures cost many times more to complete than the original contracts specified and sometimes need several revisions. Indeed, we hear that a recently built hospital in Edinburgh may need to be demolished because of faults in drainage and ventilation.
Some 15 other countries so far are involved in this Wolfson Competition. The proposal is to improve hospital care and staff wellbeing in Britain and around the world.
Where is all the necessary funding to come from? Huge further hikes in National Insurance and income tax?
Most concerning, though, was the disclosure that these great new edifices will not include convalescent care. Why not?
Greyabbey, Co Down
Holylands deja vu
It’s unsurprising another report has appeared in the press about antisocial behaviour in the Holylands. It’s even less surprising elected representatives have been rather inactive when it comes to dealing with the matter. Claire Hanna MP (September 15) suggested a “long-awaited task force response was required from Stormont on the issue”. What originality. Antisocial behaviour in the Holylands is hardly new and has been covered in the media for almost two decades. It is unacceptable that long-term residents in should have had to endure this every year when fundamental reform is needed for this problem. In many other parts of the UK, undergraduate students are housed away from residential areas. A purpose-built student village, therefore, ought to be built away from the Belfast city centre with bespoke bus services in place to accommodate travel between campus and halls. Upon completion, an immediate ban should be in place on undergraduates renting property in the Holylands area. This ought to have been the solution years ago. The problem, however, has been ignored, year after year, in the vain hope it would resolve itself. In the meantime, we’ll just have to endure banal statements about ‘taskforces’ from our esteemed representatives.