‘The Economic Case for Sharing’ - flagship event of Community Relations Week
A reduction in corporation tax won’t have the desired effect as long as division continues to undermine the Northern Ireland economy, a major conference will hear today (Thursday May 26, 2011, Stormont Hotel from 9am to 2pm).
The flagship event of Community Relations Week – a conference at the Stormont Hotel, Belfast entitled ‘The Economic Case for Sharing’ – will hear from leading representatives from the local private sector. It will also feature a video address from Nigel Roberts, a respected international economist and a special representative of the World Bank.
More than 200 delegates from across the public, private, voluntary and community sectors will attend the event, organised by the Community Relations Council (CRC). It will be chaired by broadcaster Yvette Shapiro.
Speakers will include Mark Magill, a senior economist with Oxford Economics, and Ben Collins, the Northern Ireland Director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which has 100,000 members around the world.
Panelists in a question and answer discussion will include Grainia Long, Director of the Chartered Institute of Housing; Judith Gillespie, Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI; Anne Hardy of the Children and Young People's Strategic Partnership; and Roisin McGlone of respected interface organization, Interaction.
CRC chief executive, DR Duncan Morrow says: “Division is a massive issue. And it is an economic issue. Rightly, we are hearing a lot about reducing corporation tax. But there is not the same degree of priority being attached to addressing division, which costs Northern Ireland at least a billion pounds each year.”
“Realistically, we won’t be able to reform and transform the economy when it is so weighed down by the cost of division. Reducing corporation tax therefore won’t work on its own. It needs to go hand-in-hand with a programme for government that has at its core addressing the festering sore of division, which continues to undermine the economy and would certainly undermine the benefits of lower taxation,” Dr Morrow continues.
“With political stability, Northern Ireland now has a big opportunity to begin to deal with these issues in a real and meaningful way. This opportunity absolutely must be grasped by society as a whole, led by our politicians,” he adds.
Speaking about inefficiency caused by division, Mark Magill, senior economist with Oxford Economics says: “The public finance crisis could be the catalyst for accepting that the status quo is no longer affordable in areas like education, where we spend more per head of population than other areas of the UK. In austere times, shared facilities and shared resources are more important than ever and will help address inefficiency.”
“It has been estimated that more collaboration across the sectors in education, and consolidation within the schools estate, could save up to £80million. There are also major savings to be made in areas like policing and transport from dealing with implications of division.
“In terms of duplication in the provision of services, if Northern Ireland was able to deliver unemployment and sickness public services at the same cost per head as Wales, which also has a high unemployment and economic activity rate, this would represent an annual saving of £1billion. Reducing spend per head on health in line with Scotland and Wales would represent a saving of £360m per annum,” Mr Magill continues.
“Tourism is an untapped market with huge potential. There has been rapid improvement from a low base due to the conflict. But there is still a long way to go before we reach our potential. Continuing to move forward in terms of dealing with the legacy of the past has an important role to play in that respect,” he adds.
The major conference is the flagship event of Community Relations Week, which features 150 events across Northern Ireland this week. The theme for Community Relations Week is ‘Division – No Quick Fix’.
Further information about Community Relations Week and the conference is available at www.nicrc.org.uk
Chris Harrison MCIPR JPR Sylvan House, 232-240 Belmont Road Belfast BT4 2AW