Businesses welcome stimulus package
Business and community leaders have broadly welcomed the Government's economic pact which aims to rebalance Northern Ireland's beleaguered economy and tackle sectarian division.
The stimulus package unveiled by David Cameron at Downing Street includes initiatives to attract private sector investment and job creation, boost lending to businesses and deliver capital funding for frontline projects such as hospitals, schools and roads.
Alastair Hamilton, head of Invest Northern Ireland, the business development agency, described the initiative as positive. He said: "This economic pact includes a broad range of positive measures that will deliver real benefit to businesses throughout Northern Ireland as we continue to rebuild and rebalance our economy."
The CBI, which lobbies on behalf of business across the UK, said the commitment to retain 100% of the EU assisted area status was essential to attract foreign direct investment. The organisation also identified enhanced borrowing powers to help the Stormont Executive finance capital investment and proposals to improve the cumbersome planning process among the highlights.
CBI Northern Ireland director Nigel Smyth said: "Our initial assessment indicates that there are many welcome commitments, though the detail in some of these is still to emerge.
"This package of measures will clearly help improve the economic environment, and encourage trade and investment, which will be the key drivers of the economy in the future. Much work needs to be done in the coming weeks and months by political leaders and others to help resolve issues around flags and parades. Our society needs more than mutual accommodation - we need to learn to live, work and play together well."
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) said the announcement was good news for small businesses.
"It is positive to see new measures to provide additional start-up loans, continuation of assisted area status and greater clarity towards the devolution of corporation tax before the next general election," said NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts.
Jacqueline Irwin, chief executive of the Community Relations Council, said the package of measures recognised that economic progress was dependent on a secure and peaceful society.
"The Community Relations Council has been working for many years in support of local community organisations and networks to build the confidence, skills and relationships necessary to remove the fears and concerns that underpin separation and division. We hope that these new initiatives will build on existing work and will engage widely with those directly affected," she said.