Thursday, 22 July 2010

Economics and Unionism

Graham Gudgin has provided the second contribution in the Union 2021 series with significant challenge in its content.  His focus is upon economics and Unionism.  His analysis seems somewhat tainted by what appears to be negative experiences of the UUP, like most economists he doesn't grasp that a politician has to marry economic necessity with the politically possible and fails to sufficiently acknowledge the steps towards a greater policy focus that have been made.  However, this doesn't take away from the fundamentals of his argument.

He stresses the scale of the economic difficulties our region faces:

"This was sustainable during the UK's debt-driven boom, with ever increasing amounts of money flowing into Northern Ireland, but in a post-recession world realities must now be faced.  Cuts will reduce public services by 15 percent over five years, economic growth will slow to a trickle and unemployment will rise."

Something I doubt people have yet truly grasped here.  He rightly highlights a problem in Northern Ireland's governance that is often overlooked, the bureaucracy:

"The relevant civil service departments show little desire for radical change and as have allowed their capacity for strategic economic thinking to wither away."

Gudgin also does not dimiss Unionist Unity out of hand but grasps its potential for a new departure in Unionism:

"Should the two main unionist parties unite to prevent such a prospect? Only if they could do so around a radical and reformist economic programme."

He concludes that:

"Unionism faces a choice as it looks towards 2021.  It can either fight an unsuccessful rearguard action on economic change or it can embrace reforms as part of a modern unionist programme."
But expresses doubts that it will happen, that may be less of a problem than he imagines.

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