Political instability is the 'main barrier to growth' in Northern Ireland
Political instability is the main barrier to the growth and success of small to medium-sized businesses in the Province, it has been claimed.
In its election manifesto ahead of the Assembly poll next year, the Federation of Small Businesses has called on Stormont to "inspire confidence" by promoting robust private sector growth in Northern Ireland.
The FSB said small businesses accounted for 75% of private sector output in Northern Ireland and employed more people than the public sector and larger companies combined.
Northern Ireland policy chairman Wilfred Mitchell said: "By supporting our small business sector, the Executive can help increase confidence, leading to more employment, innovation and exports.
"This will increase prosperity, self-reliance and well being."
And Mr Mitchell added: "Furthermore, by supporting growth of the private sector, the Northern Ireland Executive will be able to afford to fund the crucial public services, including health and higher education."
The manifesto, ahead of next May's elections, is based on consultation with FSB members, as well as research carried out by Ulster University.
The manifesto covers areas of concern raised by FSB members, including business rates and corporation tax, planning, the need for better broadband provision, fears over a shortage of skills among future employees, as well as calling for a reduction in red tape and action to address late payments.