Corporation tax delays 'causing some issues' with investors
The boss of Invest NI says a delay in the devolution of corporation tax creates a "bit of difficulty" for some investors, but a lack of devolved government in Northern Ireland is "not a deterrent".
Alastair Hamilton was speaking as new US investor Unosquare announced it was creating 100 tech jobs jobs in Belfast.
Earlier this month business leaders said Northern Ireland risks becoming "toxic" to investors and could damage its global business reputation if it cannot deliver a low rate of corporation tax.
There was anger in the business community here after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that an April 2018 deadline for the devolution of corporation tax "may slip" - in the words of the Department of Finance. Despite months of luring major foreign investment on the premise that Northern Ireland will have a lower 12.5% rate from April next year, Invest NI has said it will now "amend its international sales and marketing activity to reflect" the change.
Asked if he was disappointed that the date for devolution had now slipped, Mr Hamilton said: "I think it was a pragmatic and realistic position.
"It got to a point where I think everybody realised that holding for an April 2018 (date), in the current political climate, was not deliverable. I welcome the fact that there has been clarity given to that position.
"I welcome the fact that there is a still a really strong commitment to reduce the level, albeit an acknowledgement that the date will now move from April 2018. It creates a little bit of difficulty with some of the companies that we are talking to who were looking towards that April 2018 date.
"Having said that, there are two stages to investment. There's a general awareness piece, which we were doing a lot of. Then companies will get to a point, that before they commit to build a business case for an investment, they will want to know 'is this definitely guaranteed and is it legislated for?'"
And he said companies had been in touch with Invest NI amid concerns over a lack of a stable Stormont.
"There is, but... if you look at the last five or six years, we have had different agreements that have had to be made, the Fresh Start Agreement... people have become familiar that we are on a journey of political agreements. It's not just one, and there are things that need to be agreed along that way."
But he said a lack of devolved institutions in Northern Ireland was "not a deterrent" for foreign investment.