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NI EXECUTIVE URGED TO USE COVID-19 CRISIS TO BUILD NEW ECONOMYStick figure climbing mountain in green

30 June 2020

The NI Executive’s economic response to Covid-19 cannot try to turn back the clock; it must transform Northern Ireland, according to the latest report from Pivotal, the region’s independent think-tank, published on Wednesday, June 24.

The paper says the economy in Northern Ireland is likely to suffer for longer than other parts of the UK. Suggesting it is ‘time for big decisions and greater ambition’ Pivotal called on government ministers across all parties to work together to create and deliver a long-term economic strategy which will benefit everyone who lives here.

Entitled A New Economic Vision, the report also states that the Executive’s response ‘has to go beyond simply dealing with the pandemic – it must tackle issues like low skills and productivity and ultimately build a Northern Ireland fit for the future’.

Ann Watt, Director of Pivotal, said: “The Northern Ireland economy had several long-standing weaknesses before the emergence of Covid-19.

“This is the start of an extremely challenging period for the economy. Everyone can see that there has been a huge amount of disruption, and that this is set to continue. We should use this time to make changes that Northern Ireland needs.

“The Executive acted quickly in response to the immediate health and economic crises arising from Covid-19. Now it needs to be similarly bold and develop a long-term economic vision.

“This cannot be left to the Department for the Economy alone. The Executive as a whole, across all parties, needs to come together and build a Northern Ireland that is fit for the future. Their efforts cannot try to turn back the clock – they must transform Northern Ireland.

“This requires adapting to the challenges presented by the pandemic, fixing problems that existed before Covid-19, and anticipating the changes that will happen in economies across the globe in the next few years and decades.

“For instance an ambitious skills programme that leans into digital learning could be transformational – especially for local young people, who are going to be disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, with both higher-than-average unemployment combined with a shrinking number of graduate and trainee opportunities.”

“Committing to a more sustainable future is an imperative for Northern Ireland, as for all countries around the world. There are several ways in which this might go hand in hand with ongoing efforts to adapt to the pandemic.

The report suggests pedestrianising high streets, which would help with social distancing and upgrading Northern Ireland’s ‘patchy digital infrastructure’ would provide immediate economic benefits.

“Finding ways that all our school-age children can catch up on lost learning is also imperative.”

It concludes that this is an opportunity for real change – for improving skills and productivity, for modernising infrastructure, and for working towards a sustainable and greener future.

A full copy of the Pivotal report - A New Economic Vision - is available to download.

Pivotal, which was launched in September 2019, is a future-facing public policy forum, independent of government and unaligned with any political party. It is supported by a broad coalition of interests, including Belfast Harbour Commissioners, The Community Foundation Northern Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and NICVA and an academic partnership with both Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University.

For more on Pivotal visit their website or follow them on Twitter @PivotalPPF

Media enquiries about this story should be addressed to Ryan Miller, telephone +44 (0)7789 552 340.

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