15/03/2002

Finance minister allays public sector jobs concerns

The Minister of Finance & Personnel, Dr Sean Farren, has sought to allay any anxiety in the public sector over Stormont’s consideration of private finance as a means of helping fund public services in Northern Ireland.

Addressing the annual awards of the Irish Business Employers’ Confederation and Public-Private Partnership Council in Dublin, Dr Farren said that the Executive was very aware of concerns about the impact Public Private Partnership (PPP) might have on public sector jobs.

The minister said the Executive had already commissioned a review into the use of PPP for Northern Ireland and that it was due to present its findings to the Executive in the forthcoming month.

“I am very conscious of the concerns that can arise on Public-Private Partnerships and the Private Finance Initiative,” the minister said.

“I am also very clear that whatever approach is adopted in Northern Ireland is in the best interests of the public. Let me stress that I am for public services and want to see a real improvement in both the infrastructure and the quality of services provided to the public.”

The minister also explained that the idea of using PPP is not to downgrade the role of the public sector, or the value of the work of that sector.

“Our focus in the quest for alternative sources of investment finance is on PPPs in the broadest sense and in determining when they are appropriate and how best they should be deployed. I want to achieve a version of Public-Private Partnership that has a ‘broad Northern Ireland accent’.

He added: “I do not believe simply that PPPs are the answer to all our infrastructure problems, or indeed that they are the only option. However, I firmly believe that there are potentially significant benefits to be gained, in respect of more modern and more effective public services, from developing socially acceptable, commercially sound, and accountable partnerships between the public and private sectors.” (AMcE)

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