I remember talking to a Kenyan journalist a few years ago who said that when Mwai Kibaki superseded the administration of Daniel arap Moi in 2002, his cabinet was made up of many of the NGO’s who campaigned and lobbied on a range of social and human rights issues. She said that when faced with the possibility of doing something power they’d won, they seemed almost paralysed and incapable of executive action, even though they knew very well what problems needed tackling. Tom Kelly argues that with devolved power finally transferring into the hands of local politicians, the appeal and utility of protest may be fading, in the short term at least:
Our politicians need to be honest and they should not long-finger bad news – if it has to be bad news.
With the direct rule ministers having already clocked up some £7 million putting in place the architecture to collect water charges, this should not be stood down for political expediency only to be kick-started again in a year or two.
So too with other costly projects like the Maze. Its promoters need to be more realistic as costly white elephants are an extravagance when there are more pressing demands from health and education.
If we are ever to break our dependency on the public sector then, as Sir George Quigley and the economist Mike Smith keep saying, we need to do something seismic and significant with our tax position.
Invest NI and its supporters can dress it up anyway they like but inward investment is more likely to come to Northern Ireland if the incentives offered are simple and uncomplicated for foreign companies to understand.