Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

NI 'too reliant' on public spending

Theresa Villiers says there is an urgent need to re-balance Northern Ireland's economy

Northern Ireland's dependence on the public purse is unsustainable, the Secretary of State has warned.

Theresa Villiers said there was an urgent need to re-balance the local economy given the current pressures on public finances.

She told politicians and business leaders at the Long Gallery in Stormont: "Northern Ireland remains far too dependent on public spending to underpin economic activity. According to a number of reports, public spending here accounts for around three quarters of the whole of Northern Ireland's GDP."

Ms Villiers was speaking at the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust annual President's Dinner.

She added: "At the same time unemployment, while hovering around the national average, remains far too high, albeit still significantly lower than in the Republic of Ireland. So we need to revive the private sector. And I believe that this can be done."

Issues such as planning, education, training and skills, apprenticeships, business rates and spending on infrastructure projects have all been devolved to the Stormont Executive but Ms Villiers said reviving the private sector remained a pressing priority for Whitehall.

She said: "I believe that the measures we are taking to rescue the UK economy as a whole will bear fruit here in Northern Ireland. But there is more that the UK Government can do to help."

Ms Villiers said she believed reducing corporation tax would help stimulate further economic growth and told the audience she would be urging her Cabinet colleagues to resolve the issue.

She added: "The Prime Minister is continuing to consider the case for devolving the power to set corporation tax to the Assembly in order to help attract new investment. He'll be discussing this, along with other matters, with the First and deputy First Minister when he meets them later this month."

In June the leaders of the world's eight richest countries will gather at the Lough Erne Golf Resort in Co Fermanagh for the G8 conference. Ms Villiers said the huge event should be seized upon as an opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland.

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