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Minister 'upbeat' over DETI growth figures for economy

By Margaret Canning

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has said he is "upbeat" about the future of the economy after the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) published its latest economic commentary.

The October commentary said that the main sectors of manufacturing, services and construction are growing - albeit at different rates.

Output in the services sector - which covers everything from restaurants to estate agents - was up 1% year-on-year.

Manufacturing output was up 3.2% year-on-year while construction output had shown the strongest increase, at 12%.

The export outlook was weak but Northern Ireland was the only UK nation to record an increase in export activity over the year at 0.7%, the commentary said.

The Minister said "independent forecasters" suggested that the economy would grow by 1.9% in 2016 - contrasting with healthier growth of 2.4% in the UK economy.

Mr Bell added: "I am aware that potential risks do exist going forward. Nonetheless, it is pleasing that independent forecasters continue to be upbeat about our prospects.

"However, we will need to ensure that we continue to support businesses in order to improve our economic competitiveness, and this will include progressing the devolution of corporation tax as soon as possible."

Yesterday, PwC chief economist Dr Esmond Birnie predicted economic growth of 1.7% in Northern Ireland for 2015, slowing to 1.6% in 2016.

However, the commentary quotes an earlier PwC prediction of 1.8% growth in 2015, along with predictions of 2% growth in Growth Value Added (GVA) from EY and Danske Bank. Oxford Economics, meanwhile, predicts growth of 1.7%.

The commentary also said more finance was available for businesses, with bank loans to SMEs of £462m in the first quarter of this year - up 33% on the year before.

And in the first half of the year, 142 firms became insolvent - down 4% on the first half of 2014.

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