“Creating an economy for the common good should be our shared goal” says Hamilton

Date published: 12 August 2016

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has outlined his desire to create for the common good in Northern Ireland.

“Creating an economy for the common good should be our shared goal” says Hamilton

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has outlined his desire to create for the common good in Northern Ireland. 

Addressing the NICVA Big Ideas Festival of Economics, Simon Hamilton spelt out that he wants to see Northern Ireland's economy grow and rebalance in a way that does not damage but rather preserves the values and special qualities of our society.

Commenting, Simon Hamilton said: "Northern Ireland has made huge strides forward economically. The private sector is driving growth. Our employment rate is now at its highest ever level.  Economic inactivity is at an historic low and falling.  And we continue to successfully compete with other locations worldwide for major job investments.  In many respects, things are better than they've ever been.

“We are most definitely doing better. But we are far from where we want to be. Our household disposable income remains stubbornly amongst the lowest in the UK. Too many are still out of work. Some have never been in work in their lives. Many of those who have jobs are working harder and harder but feel that they are stuck in the same place.  And they are concerned that their children will have to struggle more than they did for less, rather than more. These are the people who ought to always be to the forefront of all our minds.   

“As we rightly think about how we take our economy to the next level, we must never lose sight of the need to make the benefits of growth something that everyone experiences.

“Yes, we want our local companies to grow.  And yes, we want more inward investment. But, above all, we want to make life better for those who strive and struggle every single day.

“I want us to build not just a better economy. But one that is better for everyone, everywhere in Northern Ireland. An economy for the common good. One where more people are in work. Earning more. With everyone sharing in the gains of growing prosperity.”

Minister Hamilton continued: "An economy for the common good is absolutely constructed upon the foundations of more and better jobs, improved skills and a better economic infrastructure. It will require our local companies to grow and it will need more inward investment. We cannot achieve our aims without it.

“But true success won't simply be determined by purely economic measures. Genuine success should be gauged as much by how economic growth enables our people to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.”

The Minister added: "This isn't a competition or a trade-off between economic growth and a better society. The two go hand in glove. A globally competitive economy is the cornerstone upon which we can construct the fair, compassionate and sustainable society we want for Northern Ireland. But in pursuing our economic dream we need to be careful we don't lose the best of what we already have as a society.

“Becoming the globally competitive economy that we aspire to be shouldn't require us to sacrifice what makes us special. We can transform into an agile, dynamic, innovative economy without abandoning the things that combine to make Northern Ireland the great place we know that it is. We don't have the largest economy or the highest incomes or the biggest private sector. But we have a wonderful environment, warm, friendly people and a good quality of life.

“Northern Ireland may not have the highest GDP in the UK but I would suggest we have something more valuable. Our citizens have a satisfaction with life that far surpasses that of their contemporaries in England, Scotland and Wales. We can be prone to talking this place down because we don’t top the league tables on wealth or prosperity but we arguably have something that is harder to achieve and, ultimately, of greater worth.

“We must protect and preserve what positively sets us apart with the same effort and enthusiasm as we put into bringing more and better jobs to Northern Ireland, increasing our competitiveness and improving our productivity.

“I desperately want our economy to grow and rebalance and become more innovative. That won't happen without considerable effort by us all but I don't want that to come at a cost to our society, where we lose the things that we put a premium on like family, community and caring for others.   

“Increased stress, a fear of being overworked and underpaid, greater insecurity and uncertainty are not, in my view, prices worth paying. Maintaining a healthy work life balance and allowing people to have the free time to enjoy their lives should be every bit as much part of our economy as lower unemployment or increased investment.  Surely we want to safeguard our society where people work to live instead of trading it in for one where people live to work.    

“These are the things that have put Northern Ireland far ahead of other UK regions when it comes to the happiness of our people. We should be as proud of that fact as we are of the economic progress we have made in recent times and ensure that, as we pursue further economic growth, we place improving wellbeing alongside it as an equally important goal.”

Minister Hamilton concluded: "Northern Ireland is an amazing place. We have a beautiful country with wonderful people. We have an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong sense of social concern and compassion. We have come through a lot and we have proven our resilience.   

“But for all of the undoubted assets we have, this is a tough world we live in. No one owes us a living. Every step forward we make will be hard fought and it will have to be earned. We simply will not succeed in an increasingly challenging world if we don’t pull together. Our small size is one of our greatest advantages but in a world of over 7 billion, our 1.8 million won’t thrive if we don’t work as one.

“Creating an economy for the common good, an economy that works for everyone, is surely something that all us, regardless of our religion or our social class, can get behind and help build together. As we devise and develop and deliver innovative and imaginative economic policy ideas, building an economy that works for everyone should be the overarching big idea that drives us all forward".

Notes to editors: 

1. For media enquiries please contact DfE Press Office on Tel: 028 9052 9604. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

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