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Economy Economy

Strengthen the economy in Northern Ireland

Last updated: 09:35pm 22 September 2019

A Conservative government will work closely with an incoming executive to strengthen the economy even further, to improve productivity, reduce public sector dependency and promote Northern Ireland as a location for inward investment.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.34

Our verdict

Northern Ireland (NI) accounts for 2.8% of the population of the UK. It has the smallest economy of any of the regions of the UK.  This policy is aiming to ensure the Northern Ireland economy is strengthened.

Northern Ireland has been without an executive since January 2017 due to the collapse of the power-sharing  agreement. This makes it impossible for the government to “work closely with an incoming executive to strengthen the economy”, so we’re focusing solely on government actions to meet the objectives of this policy:

  • Improve productivity
  • Reduce public sector dependency
  • Promote Northern Ireland as a location for inward investment.

In terms of productivity, in the past 3 years the government has made available up to £2.5 billion of financial support to help deliver economic growth across all sectors. Northern Ireland’s economic output increased over the quarter (0.3%) and the year (1.5%) to Quarter 1 2019. On this basis, productivity in Northern Ireland could be deemed “improved”, although it’s worth noting that the NI economy is still the slowest growing in the UK.

Secondly, public sector dependency. This is about increasing the number of jobs in the private sector, as opposed to the public sector. We don’t have great data on this yet. It looks as though private sector and public sector jobs are both on the increase. It’s too soon to say there has been any change in ‘dependency’ on the public sector, but we’ll keep tracking.

Finally, the government has promised to use its embassies and high commissions to drive up inward investment in Northern Ireland from abroad. We can’t find evidence to either prove or disprove that this is taking place.

Based on continuing government investment and Northern Ireland’s rising economic output, we think it’s fair to say this promise is ‘in progress’, but we need more conclusive evidence of a stronger economy before we can say this is ‘done’. Get involved if you want to help with tracking, or follow this policy for updates.

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