Belfast Telegraph

Chairman of CBI to push for stability at Stormont

By Margaret Canning

The chairman of the CBI in Northern Ireland has said he will use the remaining four months of his tenure to push for political progress for the sake of the economy.

The declaration from Colin Walsh, also managing director of venture capitalists Crescent Capital, came as the Enterprise, Trade and Investment committee debated a long-awaited report.

He added that a lower corporation tax was "just one piece of the puzzle" in reforming the province's economy.

Mr Walsh, who steps down from the chairmanship to be replaced by David Gavaghan, said: "It's terribly frustrating that this time six months ago, we were looking at an economic opportunity that in Northern Ireland terms had never been better. 

"We had a momentum of investment, we had the corporation tax mechanism which offered the prospect of 30,000 to 40,000 jobs in coming years, and there was the Stormont House Agreement... I have got four months left before I hand over to my successor and I'll be dedicating that time to getting us back on course."

The DUP yesterday said there would be no more meetings of the Executive except in "exceptional circumstances".

Meanwhile, the Assembly Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment has said that sustained economic development in Northern Ireland will require significant infrastructure in addition to any lowering of corporation tax.

The committee was debating a report, 'Opportunity for Excellence: The Report on the Committee's Inquiry into Growing the Economy and Creating Jobs with Lower Corporation Tax'. Committee chairman and SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said: "We found that, for all our policies and programmes, we are too focused on short term goals and that there is no evidence of a joined-up approach horizontally between Executive departments or vertically between regional and local government.

"More worrying is the lack of recognition this problem needs to be tackled if we are serious about creating the environment for business success. Lower corporation tax is just one piece of the puzzle."

Wilfred Mitchell, policy chairman at the FSB NI, welcomed the report.

He said: "In this current period of economic instability, existing businesses and potential investors need confidence-building measures that will have demonstrable benefits on the local economy.

"However, as an organisation, we are aware that the devolution of corporation tax is not a fix-all option and that is why we are pleased that further recommendations we have made, are also contained within the report.

"In order to meet the demand of new investors and over a third of our own home-grown businesses (37%), there is a need to redress the skills gap."

In today's Business Telegraph, economist John Simpson urges the Finance Minister to put some "unpalatable decisions" to the Executive, including prescription charges and water charges, beginning with a fixed £100 per year.

Belfast Telegraph