NIM Calls For Stable Cost Base To Promote Growth In Private Sector Jobs
NIM Chief Executive Bryan Gray has called on the NI Executive to provided a stable cost base for manufacturers here to promote the growth of private sector jobs and lead the recovery from the recession. In a hard hard hitting article in the local press he said:
“These are hard times, with job losses and the fear of public spending cuts permeating every corner of the economy and our society. But while the prospect of the looming cuts may be fearsome, my sympathies lie with the 9,500 workers in manufacturing and the 23,000 others in the private sector who have already lost during the downturn of the last 3 years. The latest figures thankfully show that manufacturing has at last turned the corner, with modest jobs growth on the back of strong exports in some sectors.
Meanwhile our near neighbours south of the border have had a reality check on the so-called “Smart Economy” with senior economists and captains of industry from companies as diverse as Intel and Aer Lingus, agreeing that the way forward is to rebuild the islands manufacturing base and that growth in the economy depends on blue collar jobs in traditional industries.
Sadly, some of our local politicians, while agonising over the cuts, are still pursuing the impossible dream of the high tech, high value economy! Others, while agreeing publicly that the private sector is the way forward and needs to be rebuilt, have yet to provide the decisive leadership and radical action on the economy needed to replace our diminishing public sector with jobs growth in manufacturing, which has always proved in the past to be the cornerstone of our economy.
The Independent Review of Economic Policy commissioned by DETI gathered together much useful data and drew some profound conclusions, notably that the core economic functions should be brought under a single Minister and ‘Department for the Economy’. No party has argued against the logic of this proposal yet no progress has been made on this re-organisation.
In 2008 NIM called for a proper appreciation to be made of the contribution that manufacturing makes to our economy, and indeed our society. We suggested this should take the form of an annual Ministerial speech to the Assembly setting out the ‘State of Manufacturing’, allowing for an informed debate about policy. Even this simple proposal has yet to be acted upon.
High public spending and an unparalleled consumer boom disguised the weaknesses in our economy, creating an appearance of prosperity that is now being eroded as public spending is curtailed and debt entraps households.
None would doubt that the need for change is greater than ever. It might be expected therefore that manufacturing would call for smart grids, a development of the knowledge economy, greater risk taking by InvestNI, reduced regulation and a raft of other detailed measures. All these ideas are valuable priorities for our economic development.
However in calling for these we risk simply repeating the exhortations and policy tinkering that has bedevilled recent decades. In these difficult times we simply do not have the luxury of establishing panels and developing new strategies that will remain unimplemented.
Manufacturing is not some sort of sleeping beauty which can easily be awoken in the economy. It needs a consistent, yet flexible, policy framework together with a low, competitive and stable cost base.We need action and real leadership now if we are to identify and take advantage of the opportunities already passing us by in key sectors such as renewables, which have the potential to provide the economic growth and prosperity we need to secure our future