Belfast Telegraph

More jobs on the way to help bolster the economy

Rebalancing our finances in the long-term is my priority, says Arlene Foster

Despite the economic downturn, we have delivered on many of the targets attributable to DETI over the lifetime of the Northern Ireland Executive's three year Programme for Government.

The achievement in terms of jobs promoted is particularly impressive.

At the end of this financial year DETI, through Invest NI, expects to exceed its Programme for Government target for inward investment jobs promoted by over 1,000 jobs.

It will secure 7,700 against a target of 6,500. This is an excellent achievement. Invest NI will now work diligently with the promoting businesses to ensure that all these jobs are actually created on the ground, in line with their business plans.

While many businesses have, and continue to face challenging trading conditions, my focus remains on rebuilding in the shorter-term and rebalancing the economy in the longer-term.

I will continue to build on our successful jobs promotion strategy to deliver many more sustainable jobs.

To this end I have successfully secured a £19m "ring fenced" allocation for a Short-Term Employment Measure, to be administered by Invest NI, which will promote 5,000 jobs during the budget cycle.

To further prioritise employment opportunities, I have reallocated £4m from within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's settlement to Invest NI. This will enable Invest NI to attract and secure more foreign direct investment projects that will promote an additional 2,500 jobs.

Taken together, these steps mean Invest NI can increase its jobs target from 7,500 to 10,000.

On top of that, Invest NI will now be able to lever an additional £50m into commercially-exploitable research and development projects, bringing the total to £300m. Tackling unemployment and investing in R-amp;D will help us successfully negotiate the economic downturn.

I have also reallocated £3.5m from within the total DETI settlement to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. This will enable it to prioritise the promotion of tourism during 2012, when the Titanic Centenary will be commemorated, and during 2013 when the UK City of Culture, which has been awarded to Londonderry, will be exploited.

Tourism is a key driver of the economy and further promotion of these initiatives will bring their own benefits for Northern Ireland.

On a particularly positive note, £177m of EU funding has been allocated to my department for a variety of economic development initiatives. This is £74m more than in the previous budget period. So my overall spending power is strong.

This funding, from the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme, will be applied across DETI and its non-departmental public bodies to promote R-amp;D, entrepreneurship, tourism, broadband coverage, renewable energy initiatives, and local economic development in partnership with councils.

We have also been allocated £30m for new venture capital funds and a potential loan fund and we would hope that if all of these initiatives ultimately come to fruition they could attract private sector investment of £34m to sit alongside government funding. The funds could extend beyond the budget period and may involve total government and private sector funding of £96m.

Both the Health and Safety Executive and the Consumer Council deliver key frontline services for our people and I have taken an approach that protects these areas from any significant reductions.

I have, nonetheless, taken decisive action to prioritise my uncommitted budget, in order to target jobs promotion, tourism promotion and investment by business in R-amp;D.

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