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Assembly is urged to ‘balance the books’

Business leaders have briefed Assembly members on the issues they believe must be urgently addressed in order to revitalise the local economy.

In a series of briefings to MLAs at Stormont yesterday, the Institute of Directors told Assembly members that providing good public services and building a quality infrastructure could only be achieved through a stronger private sector and urged them to speed up decision-making on key economic issues.

Joanne Stuart, chairman of IoD Northern Ireland, said: “The fundamental challenge remains a rebalancing of the economy to reverse the unsustainable 60:40 ratio between the public and private sectors.

“With public expenditure facing pressures for many years to come, growth in the private sector is the only way to create the wealth that funds public services.

“Decisions taken by our MLAs must be designed to maximise economic benefits and make space for the private sector to grow.”

Northern Ireland has the highest reliance on public sector employment of all the UK regions, but with Westminster running a huge budget deficit it is expected that the province will have to find substantial spending cuts in coming years.

Among steps the IoD is urging the Assembly to consider are what public services can be delivered by the private sector, implementing existing recommendations to produce a labour force with high level skills and agility, and attracting private investors to a Northern Ireland Infrastructure Bank.

Ms Stuart said: “Everyone needs to accept the reality of the current economic position. Hard decisions are needed to balance the books at Stormont. The economy is the top priority. Key recommendations have been made and need to be implemented, such as those from the Barnett review on economic policy and from MATRIX, the science industry panel, on innovation.”

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