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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 September 2005, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Regeneration 'moving too slowly'
Scenes of violence on Belfast's Shankill Road
Plans to regenerate deprived areas of west Belfast are moving much too slowly, a leading economist has said.

John Simpson was co-author of a report in 2003 on the regeneration needed in the greater Shankill and west Belfast areas.

"We came up with a report of 150 different recommendations," he said.

"On the strength of what was happening last weekend, we've implemented and taken notice of it far too slowly."

He emphasised that this was not in the sense of any excuse for violence or political instability.

Mr Simpson said the review he conducted was an examination of what was needed to enhance employment and thus, quality of life.
We are talking about a Belfast where we are reducing deprivation altogether
John Simpson

"We now need to acknowledge that the regeneration process for the whole of inner Belfast needs to be given greater acknowledgement by officialdom and ministers," he said.

John Simpson told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme that he had encountered claims that nationalist areas had forged ahead and loyalist areas had been left behind, but he did not think this was justified.

"It should not become a question of 'Did they do better than us or did we do better than them?'" he said.

"In fact, we are dealing with an inner urban area which, by European standards, to compare one bit with another is actually the wrong comparison."

Mr Simpson said it was not a case of looking at one deprived area in the city and saying that it was "slightly better" than another.

"We are talking about a Belfast where we are reducing deprivation altogether," he said.

'Wrong message'

The cost of this latest bout of violence will be played out in years to come, University of Ulster economist Mike Smith has said.

He said it sent out the wrong message to investors and had "wiped away" the positive images presented after last week's World Cup football match when Northern Ireland beat England.

"The direct cost, when this trouble subsides, will be assessed and it will be in the low millions, I guess," Mr Smith said.

He added that the real damage would come if the violence continued, preventing Northern Ireland from projecting itself as a place to do business.

"If the outside world perceives this as not a safe place, there will be no investment," he said.

In terms of tourism, he said that July, normally a very quiet period in Northern Ireland, saw bed occupancies up by 100%.

"Recent events put that in doubt now. It is a very effective 'closed for business' sign," he said.

"It is more the psychological impact and the taking of Northern Ireland off the menu of locations for investment."

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