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Northern Ireland without subsidy akin to Bolivia

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Paddy acting the goat

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Location: Antrim

Sceala Irish Craic Forum Discussion:     Northern Ireland without subsidy akin to Bolivia

Northern Ireland "would be akin to Bolivia", an economist claimed yesterday.

I have no doubt about the generality of this claim, as NI stands it is a basket case economy that if it had to stand on its own, would make the Republic (even with its current economic problems) look like a stable economic miracle.

The only thing this typically arrogant British blow in 'so called expert' forgets is, it is not just british subsidy that props up their failed British terrorist sectarian foundation statelet aka northern ireland.

The Irish in the Republic of Ireland provide even more charity subsidy by buying NI produce.
Over 40% of the north of Ireland exports were purchased by the Republic of Ireland last year
Without Ireland the northern statelet would not be viable even if the Westminster subsidy keeps flowing, subsidy Westminster can no longer afford to hand out.

'British taxes supporting north's living standards'
IF it wasn't for the British taxpayer, the standard of living for people in the north of Ireland "would be akin to Bolivia", an economist claimed yesterday.

And he said it was crucial for people, businesses and politicians to understand that the north is absolutely dependent on fiscal subvention - "and that means if the UK is having fiscal problems, they're coming to us too".

Economist Professor Neil Gibson, who for the past five years has been a director of Oxford Economics but who now lectures at the University of Ulster's Ulster Business School, was the keynote speaker at an Irish News/FPM Post-Budget Breakfast in Newry.

Nearly 300 delegates attended the seminar in the Quays Omniplex, at which presentations were also given by Brian Keegan, who heads up Chartered Accountants Ireland's tax department; and FPM tax specialists Paddy Harty and Janette Burns.

They offered delegates 10 Budget tips to save them tax ahead of the start of the new tax year (these tips will be featured in The Irish News business pages each day over the next week).

In a wide-ranging presentation Professor Gibson talked about a "long and slow" economic recovery, about the north's dependence on its block grant from Treasury and about how the British government's refusal to divest corporation tax-setting powers to Stormont "was a political statement and nothing to do with economics".

His reference to Bolivia certainly raised eyebrows, given that the country is one of the poorest in Latin America, with more than half its population living below the poverty line and its economy being one of the least developed on the continent.

"It's startling how fiscally dependent the north of Ireland is on UK tax payers' benevolence," he said.

"It costs about 10 billion a year to run this region and health service and welfare and pensions cost us 7bn of that.

"That means we're relying on a third of our GDP coming every single year from the British taxpayer, and if we didn't have that kind of subvention, the standard of living here would be something akin to Bolivia.

"That money is coming in perpetuity. We don't have to pay it back. We're not like Ireland where they would have to go out to the markets and say 'Will you lend me 10bn a year to run my economy?'

"You'll often hear people say that we have to protect the block grant. That might be the cheapest way of keeping our standard of living, hoping that the UK continues to pay us that money every year. But the UK has its own problems, and there are other parts of the country looking for money.

"That one year of funding the north of Ireland could pay for the Olympics every year or Crossrail in two years or build Boris's island airport in two and a half years.

"These are big numbers - and they're starting to ask Parliamentary questions about what we are providing in return for this money every year. So we need to look for growth and be less dependent."

He said there is global growth, not just China but in places like Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

"There are huge opportunities for growth here - and growing economies do mean new opportunities," he said.

On the fudging by David Cameron of divesting corporation tax-setting powers to the executive, he said the issue wrongly focused on the cost.

"The cost is irrelevant in my view," said Professor Gibson, who was one of the original authors of the modelling paper six years ago along with the late Sir George Quigley.

"It would be our cost - not Treasury's. The principal of whether you're willing to give the UK's most struggling region the power to raise its own corporate tax levy is the same now as it was six years ago, and you either agree with the principal or you don't. Only then do you argue about the cost.

"People in government are saying the delay gives us more time to work on the cost. That's got nothing to do with the principle. We should have had it, banked it, put it in our pocket and then worried about the cost. At least we'd know it was in our gift to do it.

"The time frame around Scottish independence is a red herring, a different issue. Some are saying it will have less of an impact anyway because the difference from 20 to 12 per cent isn't like 28 to 12 per cent.

"But it still matters and if you can afford 28 to 12 per cent you can afford to go from 20 to 5 per cent. Tuesday was a political statement, that's all - nothing to do with economics."

Gary McDonald Business Editor

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