Banks are in danger of damaging healthy businesses by pursuing them for cash, Northern Ireland's Finance Minister has said.
Sammy Wilson called on lenders to ease the pressure on reputable local companies.
“There are some businesses that are so badly down on their knees they don't go after them. They take the ones that are viable, the ones that do have prospects, they are the ones they can get cash from and they pursue them,” he told the Stormont Assembly.
“The danger is that in doing that they are going to damage viable businesses or put them in a situation where they find that they cannot grow and cannot continue to operate.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has also called on banks to help the economy by starting to lend to Northern Ireland businesses.
Northern Ireland is the only UK region where firms continue to report falling levels of business activity and new orders in January.
The Ulster Bank’s chief economist Richard Ramsey said: “This highlights that the underlying weakness within the local economy, and continued divergence with the rest of the UK, remains a feature at the start of 2011.
“The growing disparity is most evident with the new orders index, with the differential between Northern Ireland and the UK now at its widest margin since the survey began.”