Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's public finances at a critical stage, minister tells CBI

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's public finances have reached a "critical stage" with all parties called upon to implement the Stormont House Agreement, the Finance Minister has told businesspeople.

Arlene Foster addressed a CBI lunch briefing where she said growing the economy was the "number one" priority for the Executive.

She said the private sector had been driving the recovery. "We must continue to support businesses to invest and grow. I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by firms in Northern Ireland as they seek to exploit business opportunities."

The Minister said she wanted to create "opportunities for growth", leading her to prioritise devolution of corporation tax powers.

In June the Minister said cutting corporation tax by April 2017 was still possible if the parties signed up fully to the Stormont House Agreement.

She told the CBI briefing: "It is now absolutely crucial for our economic prospects that all parties follow through on implementing the Stormont House Agreement, including the key issue of Welfare Reform."

David Gavaghan, former head of Titanic Quarter Ltd and vice-chair of CBI Northern Ireland, said the need for ministers to engage with business "had never been more urgent". "Critical decisions need to be taken by our local political representatives in the next few weeks otherwise we are in danger of undermining our much needed economic recovery."

Paul Terrington, regional chairman of PwC, said the political focus had to change from distribution of public money to what could be gained from making businesses more internationally competitive.

"Addressing modernisation, productivity and service delivery across the public and private sectors will start a process that can deliver improved wages, sustainable employment and the increased added-value that will generate much-needed tax revenues."

Belfast Telegraph