Belfast Telegraph

Above all, we need an agreed focus on role of growth and development

By Nick Coburn

Ahead of next Thursday's election, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry has reached out to the main political parties who have variously made up the Executive over the last 10 years and invited them to take part in our '5 Leaders, 5 Days' series of talks and question and answer sessions.

It was good to hear a positive response from each party and so far we are midway through the series.

We have been heartened by what we have heard in terms of their views on the economy. Indeed we laid down five specific steps which we believe would increase business confidence.

They are: urgent agreement on a budget; an emphasis on exports and providing support for business with the potential to export; prioritise skills; a focus on infrastructure projects including the A5, A6 and the York Street Interchange; and agree a single voice and message on Brexit to address key business concerns regarding skills and trade, the ability to employ international labour, freedom of movement of people living and working on both sides of the border and being able to trade as freely as possible with the Republic of Ireland.

So far none of the leaders of the political parties have expressed any degree of opposition to any of our priorities, even if they may differ on the most appropriate means of getting to the outcome we all want.

Each of our sessions so far has involved a significant degree of input from the business owners and representatives who have turned out in very healthy numbers.

Business wants politics to succeed and wants to see a settled political situation where progress and long-term planning is not threatened by recurring breakdown and stagnation.

All the usual issues have emerged during the '5 Leaders, 5 Days' series - the fate of corporation tax, the role of the third sector; the need for skills to meet job requirements.

However, above all we need a stable Executive, an end to on/off politics and an agreed focus on the role of economic growth and development.

  • Nick Coburn is president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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