So is there any prospect of the Executive actually taking action on the recommendations of Richard Barnetts review of economic policy? You would think they ought to manage at least to create a single department of the Economy as this appears to involve only a realignment of responsibilities and not – horrors! -the disappearance of any actual department. Barnett diplomatically makes the familiar case against the risk averse strategy of Invest NI that should have been replaced years ago when seed-corn money was more available. Where will the pressure come from to get change going? Not as a result of the lazy BBC which in keeping with its dismal record of economic reporting recently gave a po-faced account of the Report, leaving it the Bel Tel and to some extent the Irish Times to reflect what seems to have been a far more critical briefing than the Report itself. And what will be the response of NI business? Chiming agreement with Barnett in public but behind the scenes, quaking at the knees, that that a neat piece of public finance feather bedding may be set to disappear, along with EU regional aid? When are we ever going to get real strategic debate about the future? Even Barnett ducked it as his brief was limited, though he was clearly itching to go further and pull the whole cosy show apart. A sign of that was Barnetts wish to scrap the new Economics Forum and replace it with a smaller leaner advisory group. Thats his verdict on the quality of business debate.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London