Belfast Telegraph

Harmony at Stormont is 'imperative for growth' in Northern Ireland

By Margaret Canning

The Executive must pull together on the economy if business is to grow, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce said today.

The Chamber today publishes an action plan calling for movement from politicians, after consulting its 1,200 company members across Northern Ireland.  

Kevin Kingston, a banker and president of the Northern Ireland Chamber, said: "The importance of political stability and a Northern Ireland Executive pulling together on the economy cannot be underestimated.

"Political stability is a key facilitator of economic growth and Northern Ireland is already lagging behind the other UK regions in terms of a recovery."

Northern Ireland's economic activity fell between the second and third quarter of 2014, the Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI) said this week - leaving the Province lagging behind the rest of the UK.

The Chamber's action plan calls for commitments from the Executive on skills, infrastructure and exports.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Chamber, said: "These are practical, pragmatic and achievable and the goals are shared by companies in every county of Northern Ireland. "We call on the Northern Ireland Executive and local authorities, regardless of location or political colour, to work together - and with us - to make it a reality."

Ian Henry, a director at Magherafelt construction firm Henry Brothers, said a stable political environment was crucial to get confidence back.

"Government needs to issue a planned pipeline of infrastructure projects that it intends to release over the next three years so everyone is aware of its commitment to funding within Northern Ireland. In turn, this will help provide the confidence we need," he said.

Northern Ireland has been given the power to set its own rate of corporation tax - a move which is tipped to make it more attractive for foreign direct investment.

But final devolution has been made conditional by Westminster on the Executive fully signing up to the Stormont House Agreement. However, disagreements over welfare reform have placed a stumbling block in the way.

The Chamber's plan, entitled 'growing something brilliant', says Northern Ireland has to grow its trade potential overseas by investing in export skills and removing barriers to trade.

Investment in business should be supported, while skills should become and even bigger priority to prepare young people for work. It is also calls for reductions in business costs and taxes - as well as a world-class infrastructure to support economic growth.

Belfast Telegraph