Ministers and civil society leaders meet in NICVA to discuss economy
The Forum was convened by the Ministers in April 2009 to act as an economic taskforce to provide advice and ideas to map a path through the current economic crisis. During the meeting Ministers discussed a range of issues including the impact of the spending review, the draft budget and the progress made by the Executive in dealing with the economic downturn.
Mr McGuinness said: "The advice of CSAF has been vital in our efforts to tackle the effects of the economic downturn. We would like to put on record our thanks to all who have contributed to this forum. "We are committed to creating economic growth for the benefit for all our people, but it is clear that we need the powers to fully realise our economic potential. This will be a key area of work for the Executive as we go forward."
Mr Robinson said: "The CSAF has played a pivotal role in the Executive's strategy for dealing with the Economic downturn. The forum has made 151 different recommendations aimed at alleviating the effects of the economic downturn of which nearly four-fifths have been completed or nearly progressed.”
During the meeting the deputy First Minister confirmed that the Executive still believes that the budget announcement made in October falls far short of what was agreed in the St Andrews negotiations. Mr McGuinness went on to say that the Executive were also concerned about the impact of the economic situation in ROI and would be meeting with the so-called ‘bad bank’ NAMA in the near future.
On the issue of corporation tax the deputy First Minister said that this had been raised by the First Minister and himself at meetings with the Treasury the previous day. They also expressed their frustration at the lack of progress on this issue to the Treasury and hoped that the most recent meetings signalled a “step change” in the Treasury’s approach.
It was clear from the meeting that the Executive are committed to the introduction of powers to lower corporation tax. However both the First and deputy First Minister said that the Executive had to be certain of the impact of any change. First Minister Robinson said that while he believed there is clearly a benefit to reducing corporation tax the Executive had to ensure we “don’t pay too high a price” for its introduction.
The First Minister went on to address the issue of changes to social security and benefits noting that any changes which simplify the system should be welcomed but not if they are really a disguise for cuts.
Speaking after the meeting NICVA Chief Executive Seamus McAleavey said “We were delighted to welcome the Forum to NICVA. We commend the First and deputy First Minister for having the vision and commitment to bring key stakeholders together to discuss these crucial issues.
During the meeting I called for the Executive to show cohesive leadership and a unity of purpose in taking us through these very tough times. We would like to see Ministers in this Executive, and in any new Executive, form a compact together and with key external stakeholders towards achieving agreed outcomes for all rather than fight for the biggest slice of the budget for their own individual departments.”
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