The mandatory coalition of the Stormont executive was a necessary step toward peace in NI. However it has ultimately hindered society. The traditional identity lines along which politics follows here inevitably leads to identity politics and complacent representatives as the electorate fails to punish them. As the saying goes, “united we stand, divided we fall”. Consequently, the division has created a situation whereby difficult decisions need to be made to increase public revenue and cover the cost of identity politics.
This has led to debates about how to generate a greater stream of income for the executive. Governments function on the revenue they can generate yet Sinn Fein, one half of the executive has rebuffed any suggestion of burdening the residents with greater charges. Sinn Fein has consequently demonstrated their unwillingness to accept blame for their own actions and shifted the blame by rolling out their austerity shtick while others have been left to consider the alternatives. This resulted in Arlene Foster suggesting that tuition fees could be raised. Even this continues in the same vain as previous executives as the can is simply being kicked down the road.
Tuition fees were introduced in 1998 in the UK by New Labour. This was the beginning of the PFI disaster that indebted the nation and enabled Tories to paint Labour as financially irresponsible. Although, the Tories increased tuition fees amazingly. On the face of it, tuition fees have enabled many people to attend university that would not have. But when the issue of tuition fees are probed a little more it appears to be detrimental in the long term. The social mobility that the UK and NI has experienced in the last two decades has been facilitated by debt.
Credit is useful as it allows people to get ahead initially but there is no guarantee that the investment is wise and will pay off. Considering the decreasing value of degrees and increasing competition in the employment market, tuition fees are just a socially acceptable form of gambling. If the burden of debt is compounded by a poor economic environment that stifles an individual’s ability to live then future generations are being condemned to a miserable existence. Furthermore, if such a scenario transpires the government will be in receipt of very little. So maybe it is a politically palatable decision because no one appears to lose but that is not true. It is simply kicking the can down the road for future generations to deal with. Therefore it must be concluded that increase the burden of debt on students in NI is ridiculous.
A Political Play
There are many ways to increase a government budget. Outflows must be assessed and only then should increasing taxes and other contributions should be considered as a means of increasing the available money. It is important to note however that although individuals are responsible for the majority of wealth creation they usually don’t hold the majority of wealth.
There will be difficult decisions needed to be taken in health, education and the wider economy which will not sit well with residents but we cannot forget why we are in this position. Mandatory coalition has restrained SF and the DUPs ability to govern for everyone. Big decisions have consequently been delayed that has facilitated this position. The idea of increasing tuition fees allows representatives to weasel out of this dire position. The current electorate won’t feel much of an effect securing the ‘status quo’ for another while. So long as the electorate doesn’t punish elected representatives Julian Smith will. Unfortunately NI residents will be collateral damage.