“Putting more money in people’s pockets”
I attended the Sinn Féin away day on Thursday and Friday and left heartened by the youth and vitality of a raft of speakers who took the platform at this think-and-do symposium.
As you might expect there was lots of future-focused rumination on the battle to Remain at the heart of Europe but there was also much debate about how to serve the commonweal in the here and now.
For me, young adviser Sinéad Travers caught the urgency of our mission best with her reminder that what we were about was really simple: “putting more money in people’s pockets”. Experience tells us, in particular, that when you put money in the pockets of working class people, they will spend those extra funds to buy services and goods, thus further boosting the economy and creating jobs. It’s a virtuous circle: invest to create jobs which increases spending power which enhances economic activity which creates jobs.
Of course, doing precisely that can be challenging and complex — when the London Government is resolved to impose further cuts to the block grant in the years ahead — but at base it’s how we should judge those we trust with running our affairs.
That of course involves substantial investment and fair taxation, meaning the better-offs may not have more money in their pockets. However, what they will have are excellent public services and, equally importantly, a functioning, inclusive economy with opportunities for all.
That’s a price worth paying, especially in a city like Belfast where we have squandered so much of our young talent by failing to give them the chance to play a full part in our economy and society.
Over coming weeks, I hope to bring proposals to my colleagues in government and in the Assembly around ways in which we can grow the funding pie to enable us to seize the opportunities to grow a shared and prosperous economy. The time to act is now. There can be no better time for an economic stimulus than these turbulent times we face.
I had a busy week, addressing not one but two business breakfasts among other engagments, and was on my feet in the Assembly answering questions. You can see more on my departmental ezine and catch the Assembly re-run here.