THE battle for votes in the South Down Assembly constituency has raised to a new level as the two nationalist parties have revealed their ecomomic and job strategies. As the recession continues to bite, jobs and economic development will be one of the top issues influencing the voters at the polls on May 5th.
With an increasing number of people out of work, and businesses still facing a wide range of difficulties, economic recovery will be slow and painful. Many householders with mortages have faced uncertain times and some have been laid off causing serious problems of meeting mortgage payments. At the heart of this dilemma is the issue of jobs. Who can turn this round?
Sinn Fein Launch South Down Jobs Creation Plan
Naomi Balie, Sinn Féin South Down Assembly candidate, has described her parties job creation strategy which will help bolster South Down as “absolutely essential’. At a launch of the strategy at the Downpatrick party office, she said, “We really need a co-ordinate an All-Ireland approach to dealing with jobs creation. To arrive at a sustainable economy, we need an All-Ireland recovery plan. In the past Assembly, Sinn Féin has:
* kept manufacturing rates at 30% supporting 55,000 people employe din the manufacturing and small businesses.
* supported the Small Business Rate Relief for 16.000 small businesses.
* delivered on Project Kelvin, a a trans-Atlantic telephone cable to the North West via Derry which will attarct inward investment to Northenr Ireland.
* delivered the Irish language film and television production fund with a new pot of £20 million to include capital projects agreed at Hillsborough in January 2010.
* secured £60 for the redevelopment of Casement Park and
* delivered £4 billion on infrastructural investment.
“We want to create thousands of jobs across our communities and the British government needs to face up to its obligations from St Andrew’s to inject £8 billion on investment over 10 years into Northern Ireland which will help the economy and job creation. “
Ms Bailie also said the Sinn Féin job creation proposals include a range of measures such as establishing an All-Ireland plan for jobs under the North-South Council, harmonising an All-Ireland taxation system, set up a new job craetion programme involving Invest NI, and optimise the role of Intertrade throught Ireland. This last point for example could have important implications for fishing and agriculture.
“We need to establish too an innovation strategy which in South Down would release businsses potential. In parallel we need to draw down €100 million from the EU’s Seventh Framewor Programme over the next two years to fund Research and Development and promote innovation. And we need to ensure that all businesses find accessing business funds in the EU accessible such as the Progress Microfinance fund of €500 million. The prosperity of South Down must be seen in conjuction with overall economic development.
“We need too to establish a Sustainable Economic Development Bond of £400 million with the four main bands over the next four years to help support job creation strategies. And lastly, the Credit Union Movement could create a £100 million Social Fund to help get local businesses moving. The future of South Down can be brighter if we adress these measures and policies.
“Therefore, there needs to be an investment fund established through the Executive to kickstart the growth on our economy and Northern Ireland level as well as locally addressing SME’s, new technologies, tourism, manufatcuring etc that can provide export of products and services. We need to create green collar jobs through the Green New Deal, and genearlly provide more support for the hard pressed business sector in South Down. The Arts and Tourism and Cultural Tourism too are areas which can help aid the recovery.
“Also, we must too ensure that social employment and training clauses for the long-term unemployed and apprentices are built into regeneration contracts.
“Sinn Féin promotes a high wage, high tech economy, and we can compete with foreign companies and create jobs in the process. We should also adopt the EU target of 3% of GDP invest in R&D by 2020. Businesses in South Down will benefit directly from all of this.
“It is complex process re-building the weak economy and I believe that Sinn Féin’s economic stategy is an essential first step in a better future for us all.”
SDLP Economy Plan Aims To Build Prosperity In South Down
SDLP South Down Assembly candidate Councillor Karen McKevitt has said an economic strategy is required from the Assembly to deliver jobs in her constituency.
Speaking following the publication of the SDLP’s Economy document ‘Creating jobs, building prosperity’, she said, “South Down has been devastated recently with further job losses and as a result more families are enduring greater hardship.
“It is vital that the economic needs of our area are met by government to get things working again. What we need is an integrated programme involving a budget, an economic strategy and a Programme for Government that meets people real needs and delivers meaningful economic outcomes for our communities.
“The starting point should be building for our future now and in doing so creating the strongest environment possible for emerging from the recession. People need delivery, jobs and investment now.
“There must be an immediate start on the Green New Deal project. Experts predict that the long term potential job creation in this sector for the North is somewhere in the region of 32,000 ‘green collar’ jobs. While the short term prospects, given proper finance, are estimated to lead to the early creation of up to 7,000 jobs.
“Maximum financial backing for this project, in terms of retro-fitting insulation to people’s homes, will create jobs now as well as help to significantly reduce people’s heating bills and protect the environment.
“We believe that this will go some considerable distance in terms of employment, particularly in the construction industry, but also lay useful new infrastructural foundations for the future.
“People in South Down need jobs. The SDLP are the only party with an effective jobs strategy to build prosperity in our area,” added Mrs McKevitt.
This week, the SDLP will launch their party manifesto for the Assembly and Local Govermnment elections and their full economic package will then be unveilled.