‘NIs Productivity Challenge’, an analysis by Professor John Turner and Dr. David Jordan, Research Fellow in Economics at the Queen’s Management School, was published yesterday.
The reasons for our low Gross Value Added (GVA) output are multifaceted. They include a higher concentration of lower productivity sectors, our geographical peripherality and gaps in infrastructure and skills.
There is also the ‘brain drain’ with many of our young people sadly choosing to emigrate for work, and a lower level of investment in R&D. The research merely tells us, of course, what we already knew - economically, Derry is the worst performing city, in the worst performing region of a UK, which, the authors note, has itself been stagnating in comparison to its peers in Europe and elsewhere. We deserve better. So what is to be done?
This latest wake-up call is not an excuse for us to wallow in our economic misfortune. The report must be a signal for policy-makers and politicians to get on with the job of delivering for Derry. Realising the promise of the £250m City Deal, expanding Magee College, and building the road and rail links that are essential if we are to have any chance of a fair crack of the whip, would be a good start.
The prescription is there in the report itself. Attract the high productivity firms; invest in the R&D; and support our higher and third level education institutions so that they can provide the courses, the apprenticeships and opportunities that our young people and their prospective employers are crying out for.
Stormont and Invest NI both need to do more. Over the years politicians from east of the Bann have been wont to protest that it is not the role of the state job promotion agency to tell companies where to invest. Well this will need to change if the Executive is to have any hope of rebalancing the regional economy as is its stated policy.