Light-touch regulation, Freeports, and Enterprise Zones are the centrepieces of the recent Belfast Chamber of Commerce report, ‘Empowering Belfast’. Its stated aim is to devolve power from Stormont to local councils: and to Belfast City Council in particular.
Despite its fanfare launch and the accompanying hype it is unlikely to deliver anything of substance for working class people in the city and beyond.
What this report, and others like it, attempts to do is to give private interests greater powers in local government decision-making and to turn Belfast port and other areas in Northern Ireland into de facto tax havens with reduced workers’ rights.
Among models touted in the ‘Empowering Belfast’ document are give-aways, tax breaks and further deregulation of business.
A further proposal for a Belfast Freeport should raise alarm bells. A European Commission report concluded that Freeports “could be abused for trade of counterfeit goods, money laundering and other crime if no sufficient checks are carried out to identify the owners of companies using them”, Concerns have been expressed that Boris’s Johnstone’s Freeports idea could turn the UK into the world capital of money laundering.
Previous economic initiatives aimed at redressing the structural weaknesses in our society and economy have failed to deliver. ‘Empowering Belfast’ will be no different.
Only a planned socialist economy can provide sustained economic growth, job security and guaranteed workers’ rights.
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