I thank the First Minister for his statement. Although there is a consensus in society that the Executive were right to prioritise the economy in the Programme for Government, does the First Minister recognise the range of views — including those of the business sector and economists — on the different ways to prioritise the economy? How will he respond if the forum requests that the Programme for Government be revised?
For example, in light of the First Minister’s comment that foreign direct investment is not as viable as before, do resources need to be moved from selective financial assistance towards skills, particularly because we cannot always compete on low costs in the future? Furthermore, although I appreciate that the First Minister finds economists to be depressing, why are they not represented on the forum? Several skilled economists from the banks and universities could contribute. Although they might highlight some difficult truths, we sometimes need to hear those harsh realities.