Investment Strategy key to meeting future challenges01 March 2019 - by Gráinne Walsh
The existing Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland was published by the Executive Office in 2012 and covers the period up to 2021.
In the first implementation phase of the Investment Strategy (2012-2016), the government provided a £5 billion stimulus for construction and related sectors of the economy.
The current phase reflects the Northern Ireland Executive’s priorities, set out in the Programme for Government (PfG) – last updated in 2016, prior to the collapse of the power-sharing institutions at Stormont.
The priorities for the Investment Strategy, as guided by the PfG, are:
Growing a sustainable economy and investing in the future;
Creating opportunities, tackling disadvantage and improving health and wellbeing;
Protecting people, the environment and creating safer communities;
Building a strong and shared community;
Delivering high quality and efficient public services.
With the two-year countdown to 2021 having started and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU imminent, an updated Investment Strategy must not only align with other key initiatives, such as the Industrial Strategy, it must also meet the challenge of simultaneously mitigating any negative impacts while positioning Northern Ireland to take advantage of opportunities.
It will be interesting to see what links there are between future investment strategies across the UK and the Conservative government’s pledged ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’ – the planned replacement for the EU Structural Funds.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has made a number of recommendations:
1) The Shared Prosperity Fund should at least match the £2.4 billion a year that currently flows to communities across the UK from EU Structural Funds.
2) The fund should be devolved.
3) The fund should be allocated on the basis of need.
4) The fund should operate as a single pot, enabling capital and revenue streams to be co-ordinated.
Given the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s current surplus of almost £15 billion and the Prime Minister’s promise to end austerity, here is an opportunity not just to spend money but to spend it strategically.
Join us this Saturday at the Alliance Party conference, where we will discuss, alongside the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the future of the Shared Prosperity Fund and how we can end poverty through smart regional planning and investment.