Monday 23 September 2019

Responsibility comes with devolution

Devolution, how are you?
Devolution, how are you?
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Devolution, how are you? Confirmation that Northern Ireland's corporation tax rate will be set at 12.5pc from April 2018 is momentous news for one of the poorest regions in the UK - and it's a decision that will make companies on the rest of this island raise their competitive game.

The corporation tax deal was reached after the latest round of power-sharing talks at Stormont.

Following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the people of Northern Ireland were promised prosperity.

It never came.

Instead, the North's heavily subvented economy lurched from crisis to crisis.

At present, one in four young people in the North is unemployed. For those that have jobs in Northern Ireland, their wages trail the rest of the UK.

Times are hard: the North's annual income is £13.6bn.

And with an annual expenditure of £22.7bn, that leaves the North with an effective deficit of £9.1bn.

That is more than the Republic of Ireland has ever had in any single year.

Northern Ireland has, despite its difficulties, attracted decent levels of inward investment in recent years.

And Unionists such as DUP deputy leader Arlene Foster, despite their commitment to the Union - have looked on with envy at our corporate tax regime and fought hard for a slice of the investment action.

The agreement to allow Northern Ireland to set its tax rate at 12.5pc will put it up to companies on the rest of Ireland to compete further for foreign direct investment.

But the island could also capitalise on this investment by offering both euro and sterling bases - in one place.

The agreement may further accelerate devolution in the UK - the North's 12.5pc will stand in stark contrast to the rest of the UK's, which is set to fall from 20pc to 18pc.

But with devolved power comes huge responsibility.

The northern executive, which has been given the privilege of securing a major economic policy shift, must live up to the task of managing such an important economic tool.

The new agreement is not just good on the economic front.

It also means the North can send a message to the world that it is serious about peace and prosperity.

It's a big deal and the executive cannot waste such a momentous opportunity.

Irish Independent

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