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Source: Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Executive should be more ambitious in its fiscal activism and use every tool at its disposal to support workers and businesses through the Covid crisis, SDLP Finance Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole has said.

Speaking on the day the Northern Ireland Assembly debated the Executive’s latest budgeting plans, the South Belfast MLA said the finance department had failed to explain why they were not making use of Northern Ireland’s limited borrowing powers in order to support businesses and young people through this crisis, with £200 million headroom still available to the Finance Minister via the so-called Reinvestment and Reform Initiative.

There are also concerns that the Northern Ireland could end up handing back unallocated capital funding to the Treasury – an indefensible situation given the gravity of the economic situation being faced by Northern Ireland.

Matthew O’Toole MLA said:

“When the Assembly and Executive reformed in January, no one was expecting that our first year back would be dominated by managing a pandemic and the subsequent economic turmoil. Nevertheless, the Executive’s spending allocations over the last number of months have come in dribs and drabs and have looked nothing like a properly thought-out cohesive recovery plan based on the real needs of workers and businesses. Planning for the months to come has to be more coherent and ambitious than what we have seen so far.”

“It is time to get creative with the fiscal tools we have available to us. We should be taking advantage of the current historic lows in borrowing costs. We should also find novel ways of using Financial Transactions Capital in the months to come. Now is not the time to be leaving money unallocated, or to be conservative in accessing the limited borrowing powers that the devolved institutions.

“Now is the time to show maximum effort and maximum ambition for our finances to get us through this crisis.”

MIL OSI United Kingdom