Belfast Telegraph

CBI wants tuition fees to rise in plan to grow economy

By John Mulgrew

Businesses are calling for an increase in university tuition fees to at least £6,000 a year as part of a comprehensive 12-point plan aimed at growing Northern Ireland's economy.

The CBI in Northern Ireland is pushing for a raft of key changes, including lowering the rate of corporation tax, remaining in the EU, creating a strong Programme for Government, expanding our roads network and delivering the long-delayed North-South interconnector.

And more controversially, the CBI is keen to see university tuition fees increase to at least £6,000, along with proposals which would require students to study English and Maths up to the age of 18.

It comes after Colin Walsh, chairman of the CBI in Northern Ireland, blasted Stormont, and put pressure on politicians here to ensure the region doesn't return to direct rule.

And the new incoming chairman, former Titanic Quarter chief executive David Gavaghan, said Northern Ireland "needs political stability" to ensure the economy can grow.

"The question for us all is how do we get in the next cycle of the economic upturn.

"With the political instability in front of us, it's very difficult to do that," he said.

"I think we need political stability in order to ensure we have five years plus of growth ahead of us."

Outgoing chairman Colin Walsh said: "Once the political foundations are in place, a new economic vision is required.

"This new vision must recognise that Northern Ireland competes within a global marketplace for investment and talent, appreciates the value of investing in infrastructure, and above all, understands that tough economic choices cannot remain undecided forever."

CBI Northern Ireland director, Nigel Smyth said: "The next Executive has a historic opportunity to put in place far reaching measures that will close the economic gap with other regions and nations and deliver the prosperity that Northern Ireland so desperately needs."

Mr Smyth said there had been a "lack of ambition" in Northern Ireland's last Programme for Government.

Meanwhile, according to the CBI, a straw poll of around a dozen of its members showed 100% support for remaining in the EU.

The CBI's new plan includes other areas of focus for what it hopes will be a renewed and reinvigorated Executive next year, if our political leaders can sort out their differences amid the ongoing talks process. It wants "clear timescales" for major road works such as the A5 and A6 upgrades.

The CBI also wants a new "procurement and delivery agency", to make planning more straightforward in order to attract business and reform Northern Ireland's public sector.

Just a few days ago, outgoing chairman Colin Walsh pulled no punches when criticising Stormont during the business group's 50th anniversary event at the Culloden Hotel outside Belfast.

He said politicians "need to earn the respect of the public again". He added that "we need to see an end to old divisions, the melodramas, and the brinkmanship".

Belfast Telegraph