[Sinn Fein]

20th March 2003

Anger at 30 million Invest NI underspend

Former Chairperson of the Assembly Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty MLA has expressed frustration at the loss of 14 million from the budget of Invest NI announced in today's final end of year re-distribution of resources by Britsih direct rule Finance Minster Ian Pearson.

Mr Doherty said:

``The announcement that Invest NI has lost 14 million from its budget because it was unable to fully carry out its expenditure programme will be greeted with disbelief by many companies, particularly SME's. It comes on top of the announcement in January that Invest NI had lost nearly 17 million from its budget for the same reason. Under spending of over 30 million by Invest NI means that there is 30 million that cannot and will not be used to support our economy.

``Given the reality that industry here is suffering from the accumulated impact of excessively high energy and in particular electricity costs, weak infrastructure, water charges and spiralling insurance costs, it is hard to find arguments that stand up to scrutiny for the loss of such a significant level of financial support.

``The argument that the opportunity to support our local businesses to the tune of 30 million is a result of a `significant economic slowdown' stands logic on its head. The correct response to more difficult circumstances is to find ways to support and encourage local businesses top finds new ways of manufacturing goods, new markets and new products or services.

``It is rank hypocrisy to throw down the challenge to local businesses to be more successful in the global market on the Monday and then announce on the Thursday that one of the central agencies promoting business growth has been unable to spend 30 million in the last 6 months to help them meet that challenge.''

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