The DUP have made it clear in their election manifesto (PDF document) that, as far as they are concerned, there will be no devolution in Northern Ireland unless the British government stumps up the cash for a financial package so that local taxes don’t have to be raised and so the region can compete with the Irish Republic.
“We have made it clear that resolution of this issue is a precondition for establishing devolution. Northern Ireland will never have a better opportunity to make up for the decades of underinvestment during the Troubles or to help us compete economically with the Republic of Ireland.”
The DUP believes that without the cash bale-out, the good burghers of Northern Ireland will face the prospect of massive local taxes, being economically uncompetitive and lacking the funding for essential infrastructure.
Naturally, they don’t like the idea of any incoming Executive having to deal with such a reality so have decided to be the only party to make a financial package “a precondition” for devolution.
“Negotiations have already taken place on this issue but it is vital that the matter is resolved in advance of devolution. If a satisfactory financial package is not secured now, it is unlikely to be obtained after devolution returns when the pressure is off the Government.”
On the issue of transforming the Northern Irish economy, the DUP believes that there are several structural weaknesses that must be overcome. These include:
• over dependence on the public sector
• a higher proportion of economically inactive people
• low levels of investment in research and development
• a shortage of many appropriate skills
The first step on the road to solving to these problems seems to be “a financial package to underpin any possible political settlement.”
It also outlines how it hopes to alter Northern Ireland’s economic fortunes even if much of what it wants is beyond its gift to deliver:
• a cut in the corporation tax rate to entice foreign direct investors to set up in NI and existing companies to expand
• other fiscal incentives to encourage, for example, enhanced research and development
• assurances on public spending levels going forward
• a massive investment in our roads, rail,water, sewerage, energy and telecommunications infrastructure
• a radical reform of the planning process so strategically important developments can be fast tracked
• investment in NI’s skills base
• exploiting fully NI’s tourism potential
Naturally, the DUP once again “insists that a suitable financial package is a necessary condition before political progress can be made”.
On the issue of cutting the cost of doing business, the DUP supports:
• a simplified tax and benefits system
• an electricity market within a British and Irish context delivering competitive energy prices
• a cap on industrial rates
• reduced business banking charges
• special emergency fund for businesses having difficulty obtaining insurance cover
• lower fuel duty
• concerted action to reduce business crime