“It is already obvious that the Executive’s new Budget and Programme for Government will be devised in a much tighter financial environment than for many years.
“Unlike the previous devolution period, in the early years of the New Labour Government, when there were significant additional resources, this Executive will have to make tough decisions. It is imperative that we get the Programme for Government and our priorities as an Executive right.”
From the minister’s statement
Mr Robinson said that Northern Ireland faced a number of challenges, not least from Westminster, where there was a reluctance to allow Northern Ireland to tackle its problems in a different way from other UK regions.
He said that the current Review of Corporation Tax has the capacity to help make a difference to our economic prospects, but that it would not solve all our problems:
“Whatever Sir David Varney’s report contains, we still face huge challenges in areas over which we have direct responsibility. The Executive has fiscal control in the area of non domestic rates – these are not set at Westminster, but in Stormont.
“The Direct Rule administration brought forward legislation to phase out Industrial Derating by 2011. The Economic Research Institute for Northern Ireland is presently conducting research into the impact of ending industrial derating. And while it would be wrong for me to pre-empt any decision the Executive may come to on this issue, I believe that if we are to make economic growth a priority we must do it, not just in word, but in action.
“This is especially the case in the context of onerous EU State Aid rules which hamper our ability to assist business in new ways. Capping industrial rates may be an inefficient way in which to target assistance, but there are few other opportunities available to us within EU constraints.
“As I have said, they key will be to facilitate the private sector to become more outward-looking, more innovative and more productive… I do not believe that we must accept things the way they are. I refuse to accept that they will never change.”