Since February, the world has been gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic. The likes of this pandemic has not been seen in many generations.

 West Belfast MP Paul Maskey[/caption]
West Belfast MP Paul Maskey[/caption]

It poses enormous challenges to our health system and for our society politically, socially and economically. To date, this pandemic has claimed the lives of over 2,000 people in Ireland and hundreds of thousands across the globe.

It’s important to remember that these figures are not a mere statistic, but each death represents a life lost, a heartbroken family and a devastated community. The protection of life during this crisis is paramount and has been the absolute overarching priority for Sinn Féin.

In these tragic circumstances, it has been difficult to think about the long term economic impact of the crisis as we focused our efforts into saving lives and providing immediate support for workers, families and businesses. But at this point the impact is already clear – we are in the midst of the sharpest economic recession in centuries.

Despite unprecedented economic intervention from states around the world, the world economy will be hit hard, and unemployment will rise, disproportionately targeting the least well off in society, young people, and the vulnerable. States do have a choice between which path they choose to follow in the months ahead as we reconstruct our economy.

One path can lead us to a new economy, based on security, safety and compassion for all. Values that are needed more than ever in a post-pandemic world. The other path leads back to a recent past, where governments slash public spending, attack public services, and target the most vulnerable to pay for tax breaks to millionaires.

For me, there is only one viable pathway and that is one which prioritises public services, workers, families and local business. Now is the time to a build a renewed campaign for the North to be in control of our own fiscal powers.

If we are to truly develop and construct a compassionate society and just economy, then we must control of our own financial levers. We cannot trust a right-wing British Government to protect the interests of the many.

In the North, we have to come up with new means to generate increased revenue for our coffers in the Executive in the North to provide first class public services, jobs and housing. Progressive taxation policy for the wealthy and larger businesses will be key to generating this revenue.

It is my firm view that we must seize this opportunity to build something new and much better than what has gone before. It is the time to begin planning for a new and sustainable economy that is underpinned by equality, justice and that is environmentally friendly.

A greener economy must be a core component of our future in order to preserve our island and the world for future generations to safely prosper. We must have a strong, safe and resilient economy that can survive the economic threat posed by any future pandemic and the threat of any further devastating Tory-imposed austerity. 

Paul Maskey is the Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast.