Belfast Telegraph

Business world 'lacks confidence' in Executive's decision making

By Staff Reporter

The business community in Northern Ireland lacks confidence in the Executive's ability to make decisions on stimulating the economy, a survey has found.

The latest Goldblatt McGuigan Business Survey, conducted exclusively for the Business Telegraph, polled 165 firms and found that a massive 71% of senior executives surveyed said they were either not confident (57%) or very unsure (14%) of the ability of the Executive to take the right economic decisions.

This compared to 28% who said they were confident and 1% who said they were very confident in the Executive taking the right steps.

However despite this, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Arlene Foster MLA, who has recently started her second term in the role, enjoys a high confidence level among respondents.

When asked how they would rate her ability to lead forward the local economy 71% said she was either very good (14%) or good (57%) with only 20% rating her as either poor (19%) or very poor (1%).

Ms Foster and her DUP colleagues would appear to be well ahead of the other four main parties with over half (53%) of executives rating them as the party with the best level of understanding of business issues, followed some way behind by the Ulster Unionists (12%), Alliance (10%), Sinn Fein (8%) and SDLP (7%).

Confidence levels appear to be rising for the year ahead.

While 49% or businesses said they felt either negative (44%) or very negative (5%) about the prospects for their business, 47% of those surveyed said they were feeling positive (43%) or very positive (4%).

This comes as a contrast to the findings of a similar survey undertaken six months ago when only 29% of businesses expressed any feelings of confidence.

Commenting on the findings of the Survey, Sam Goldblatt, managing partner at Goldblatt McGuigan said that the Executive ministers still have much to do in building confidence with the business community regarding their economic strategy.

"While the Minister for the Economy's approval rating is high, her colleagues at the Executive table will surely be disappointed in the lack of confidence that the survey findings clearly highlights," he said.

"Of course, in the Executive's defence, economic growth will not be delivered purely as a result of any one decision or indeed range of decisions taken at Stormont, this is a global recession after all, not just a local one."

He added that the fact that the DUP is regarded as the political party with the best understanding of business issues is "hardly surprising" when their ministerial line up includes the positions of First Minister, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister and Finance Minister.

Businesses surveyed highlighted the proposed drop in the Corporation Tax and the growing of social enterprise as key issues for strengthening the economy.

Damian Hughes, managing director at Fleet Financial (NI) Ltd said: "The executive need to be aware that the business community expect them to address the imbalance in public sector versus private sector employment numbers. The only way to do this is to attract inward investment from global companies via corporation tax reductions."

John McMullan, chief executive of the Bryson Charitable Group said: "We now know the size and shape of the economic challenge and that we need to embed enterprise into our organisations and working practices.

"As our politicians address a rebalancing of our economy they must invest in and create space for social enterprises to grow and flourish."

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