And the intra Unionist battle continues…

Simon Hamilton responds to Sammy Gardner’s Presser of this morning… (is there an election campaign in the offing, or something? – ed)

…an economic downturn that is genuinely global in nature is certainly posing problems for every country in the world and in particular small, open, regional economies like our own. We should most definitely seek to encourage our own indigenous firms to both survive and seek new opportunities during the downturn. But to turn our face entirely upon inward investment would be an utterly regressive and completely counter-productive.

Thriving economies are built upon a blend of inward investment and indigenous companies not the sort of insular, ourselves alone approach of the UCUNF. Furthermore, whenever the recession ends, Northern Ireland will want to be well placed to win investments from foreign companies. Who will they put their faith in? Economies that were there during the bad times or the sort of fair weather friends that UCUNF would have us be?

He cites the example of Dell pulling out of Ireland as an example as to why, in his view, chasing US inward investment is foolish at a time when he believes America is trying to repatriate jobs. In reality, Dell moved its Irish jobs to Poland. When did Poland become the 51st state? Just this past week, Dell closed its manufacturing operation in Austin, Texas, making another nonsense of Mr Gardiner’s claims.

Mr Gardiner also ignores the fact that since the agreement of the Programme for Government which he and his Party voted in favour of, Northern Ireland has attracted nearly 1,800 new FDI jobs. Even in these troubling economic times, we have been able to highlight Northern Ireland’s many advantages to new investors.

In calling for a recasting of the Programme for Government and Budget, I would pose the question to Mr Gardiner, “what priority would he wish to see given to economic growth rather than the number one priority it enjoys at present”. As UCUNF try to talk down Northern Ireland’s economy at a time when we should all be trying to talk up our many positives, the DUP will continue to focus upon investing record levels of around £1.5 billion into our infrastructure and assisting businesses with rate freezes and rate reliefs.

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  • DC

    Talk up positives, Simon? Where were you 10 years ago?

  • The Raven

    “But to turn our face entirely upon inward investment would be an utterly regressive and completely counter-productive.”

    I don’t think anyone is asking that we do this. They MAY however be saying…”well…let’s make INI’s spend 80/20 in favour of local companies for a wee while…see how we get on…”. Which is totally fair at this time.

    “When did Poland become the 51st state?”

    It didn’t. But it did become the state that was a fuck-sakes cheaper than here. Don’t I remember a 1000-jobber closing in Limavady for the same reason…? One plant that near enough equates to these fabulous 1800 FDI jobs that Simon mentions?

    And how much did these FDI jobs cost in terms of grant, at a time when indigenous business is having to beg Stormont to pay its bills within 30 days? Yes indeed – in getting these 1800 jobs, which is around 1/30th of the claimant figures, how much did we spend that may have been more usefully employed in safe-guarding indigenous jobs?

    Rates freezes? Has anyone actually calculated how much that saved local business? I didn’t. But I *did* fire in an FOI about it…

    These two…they make me laugh. Jousting over jobs while families get fucked out on their ears from their home. Seriously people: stop voting for them. It only encourages them.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Our economy is in a terrible state and is collasping by the day, and Hamilton wants to talk it up. We need a route map to sorting out the mess not a head in the sands attitude or pretending all is rosy.

    The DUP and SF need to grasp the bureacratic monolith of Invest NI and get its 600 employees focused on improving the economy and not moving paper around, avoiding risk and spending money on glossy brochures, non productive campaigns like ‘go for it’ and chasing large scale FDI. They have all failed us by not changing to the needs of the 21st century and the recession.

    Maybe the current review under the IREP will actually identify the problem and come up with some innovative solutions.

  • Question

    Could Fair Deal and Frustrated Democrat possibly admit that both parties is question are a lot of self serving greedy cunts?

    Or is Fair Deal going to maintain it’s ok for the DUP to bleed the taxpayer dry ,but wrong for UNCUNF to do so while Frustrated Demcrat argues it’s ok for UCUNF but not the DUP.

  • The Raven

    Question…

    You might think that.

    I couldn’t possibly comment.

  • The Raven

    “The DUP and SF need to grasp the bureacratic monolith of Invest NI and get its 600 employees focused on improving the economy and not moving paper around, avoiding risk and spending money on glossy brochures, non productive campaigns like ‘go for it’ and chasing large scale FDI.”

    Go For It isn’t “non productive”.

    However, the rest of your post is not far from the mark. It also links into the lack of risk that we have discussed many times before, that civil servants take when dealing with public money. However, I will concede De Lorean was a risk. 🙂

    INI still roughly work to the same rules that LEDU and IDB did many years ago. Some of that is governed by EU rules on state aid. Some of it is governed by a refusal to move forward. The one that really gets me is “we don’t promote one area in Northern Ireland over any other”.

    I would like to see a little more thinking on the spread of investment from overseas. Check out INI’s latest performance report. There are obvious blackspots in terms of where investment goes. Partly, this is because companies coming in which need a largescale workforce won’t look at rural areas. And that’s fair enough. But we need some new thinking on incentivising them to look beyond Newtownabbey, Craigavon, Belfast and Derry. And we need to MAKE INI and others look at where they take these visitors.

    “Some new thinking” means rates breaks, tax breaks, more state-sponsored building of economic xones, improved availability of IT and roads infrastructure.

    This is big stuff. And the blame for this doesn’t lie with Invest Northern Ireland. It lies with government’s inability to think strategically….to spread the wealth and investment…to think beyond “what I as MLA want for my wee village.”

    It means that some policy makers in Belfast will have to say, “yeah let’s take Ballymoney/Fermanagh/Limavady/wherever and do some work on making it inviting as a workplace”. It also means that when a big investment is announced for an area beyond the city limits, that the people in the city realise that they can’t have everything on their doorstep all of the time. (c/f the Derry/Coleraine debacle a few weeks ago).

    Simply put, the preceeding two paragraphs are frankly unachievable with the current people we have in charge both in the Civil Service and elected members. This represents an absolute paradigm shift in thinking, and these guys haven’t got it.

    But me? I only work with micro-enterprises. What would I know about FDI?

  • Fair Deal

    Question

    “it’s ok for the DUP to bleed the taxpayer dry”

    Where did I say that?

    Fru Dem

    “The DUP and SF need to grasp the bureacratic monolith of Invest NI”

    The Invest NI bureaucratic monolith was a UUP idea and implemented by one Sir Reg Empey when at DETI.
    One agency for business support

    “We believe that the various agencies dealing with indigenous business – LEDU, the IRTU, the home division of the IDB and those parts of the Training and Employment Agency which are enhancing skill levels within companies – should be merged to create an efficient one stop shop for business support. The new agency would contain a monitoring division to ensure that assistance is delivered with maximum efficiency, and with the minimum of bureaucracy, to ensure proper administration of public funds. Major focuses of support will be in raising levels of innovation in new products and in raising levels of vocational skills. The new arrangement would allow the IDB to focus its efforts solely on the task of attracting external firms, thereby utilising its financial resources more effectively.”
    http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/man/uu97.htm

    Although as the raven points out EU rules account for much of the bureaucracy. On the bureaucracy stuff does anyone know where the gold-plating (over zealous interpreatation of EU rules) review is at?

    The Raven

    “It also links into the lack of risk that we have discussed many times before, that civil servants take when dealing with public money.”

    This is a key issue. In my sector a fortune is wasted on reports so that a civil servant can blame it if something goes wrong. They also keep invoking ‘the auditors’ even though if you actually get to the auditors they are usually happier with less than has been interpreted.

    “It lies with government’s inability to think strategically”

    Not entirely a problem of the political class and civil service. A significant proportion of Northern Ireland’s general populace have extremely restricted geographical world views – this acts as a significant impediment.

    ““what I as MLA want for my wee village.””

    The role of PR in making parochialism even worse should not be over-looked.

  • The Raven

    Alas, Fair Deal, the auditor issue is not as simple as you have noted there. It increasingly IS a huge burden on everyone. It is growing exponentially with every year that goes by. NIAO stifles growth, free thinking and risk-taking.

    It costs £10 million to run every year. It produces reports with “findings” and half-baked ideas on how to “improve” next time round, which – when they are actually implemented – become the focus of more “findings” next time round.

    Their high point of the year is reporting on the previous year’s sickness levels. They are the antithesis of every single notion we have of trying to make things work better.

    Sorry, did I hold back there?

    Despite what many think, the civil service has many excellent people in it. But they are stopped at every turn by the threat of the auditor and a grand-standing PAC. I like what I am seeing in some sections of local government at the minute. There are reports of rebellion. And rebellion against the Local Government Auditor is only ever a good thing….

    But I digress. Apologies.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    F Deal

    Whether it was one agency or two makes no difference it is still the same people operating under the same rules. It was of little benefit as two and little differnt as one.

    The change should have been to scrap the whole lot and start again but the Civil Servants making recomendations to Ministers won’t go for that option.