Wednesday, 19 January 2011

UUP take Golgafrincham approach to budgeting

"Fiscal policy!" whooped Ford Prefect, "Fiscal policy!"
The Management Consultant gave him a look that only a lungfish could have copied.
"Fiscal policy ..." he repeated, "that is what I said."
"How can you have money," demanded Ford, "if none of you actually produces anything? It doesn't grow on trees you know."
"If you would allow me to continue ..."
Ford nodded dejectedly.
"Thank you. Since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt the leaf as legal tender, we have, of course, all become immensely rich."

from Chapter 33 of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Northern Irish readers may recall that before there was a water crisis there was a budget crisis. This was resolved at the last minute before the MLAs all went home for Christmas only to find there was no water.

David McNarry the Ulster Unionis Party's (UUP) finance spokesman yesterday rejected the draft Assembly budget, that was trying to make the best out of the reduced budget that Northern Ireland, in common with Westminster departments, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly had all dealt with long ago.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson retorted with the line echoing the above quote:

"The UUP response to the budget argues for more money for jobs, more for health, more for education but fails to indicate where this money would be found.

"Has no-one told the UUP that money doesn't grow on trees?"

Sadly for Northern Ireland another of the parts of the quote above also rings true. "How can you have money if none of you actually produces anything?" with one of the largest public sectors in the UK* of course our economy is heavily reliant on the Government provisions and funding, we don't produce much. It is something that needs to be dealt with, but sadly political point scoring over budget funds that aren't available, or bi-lingual traffic signage or whatever is the theme of the day's disagreement isn't going to cut it.

If Northern Ireland really wants to flourish as a vibrant location it needs its politicians to do some grown up politicking. It needs them to look beyond the realms of their own little interest sub-section of the community, it needs them to look to the good of the whole. The fact that each party has it's own little departmental nest egg that it wants to protect makes the budget point scoring all the more dispiriting as parties defend party lines, or their party's minister rather than looking for what is best for Northern Ireland.

* In December 2008 it was 30.8% of the workforce, down from 37% in 1998. Source Department of Finance & Personnel (2009) 2009-10 Northern Ireland Public Sector Pay and Workforce Technical Annex

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