As a society we promote growing our economy as our priority. Such a policy represents clear political thinking that a growing economy will improve the quality of life of all our citizens. To ensure this our government must manage expectations and investments to ensure that all our citizens have an equal opportunity to benefit.
In Northern Ireland we continue to struggle with the concept of ensuring a return on the investment we make or indeed recognising the value of the investment that others make. Investing in health, education, further and higher education represent areas where we know the cost of everything and the value of very little.
Occasionally we have the opportunity for others to invest in us, in Northern Ireland. We ask them to come here, to invest money on the basis that, rightly, all things being equal they will receive a return on that investment and we too will benefit, through employment, taxation or services. Sometimes it works.
Sometimes we get it wrong, sometimes we invite people to invest, we present them with the rules they must abide by and then when they have made the investment we change the rules. We say sorry but we really aren’t a mature society, we want to grow our economy but while we know the slogan we don’t know what it means. NIMBYism is alive and well, Luddites take to the airwaves and laneways.
If we establish clear, robust environmental standards which are met by investors then we are surely bound to uphold our side of the contract. Neither as ecowarriors nor Ministers do we have a right to change the rules in the middle of a contract just to block development on a whim. If we continue to do so then the consequences are clear, those who have resources to invest will go elsewhere, they will go where the rules are clear and decisions are straight.
With them will go the hope of growing our economy, our hope of improving our quality of life through investment. By all means we should have robust protection for our environment but those who undermine investment in a battle against imaginary ghosts and shadows have stepped outside the real world we live in.