Belfast Telegraph

One of these men has faith in our firms

Bank man says the passion of business will rescue economy

By David Elliot

One of the nine people at the helm of the UK economy believes the passion of Northern Ireland's business people can help pull the economy out of recession.

Paul Fisher, a key member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), also urged businesses here to focus on the opportunities in the current economic environment rather than the problems.

"The UK is still a very rich economy," he told the Belfast Telegraph on a visit to Northern Ireland. "If you look around the world there are billions of people in the world who'd like to live somewhere like Northern Ireland with its resources and its standard of living, however subdued that is from the peak.

"This is still a great place to be and there will be plenty of opportunities going forward."

Along with the other members of the MPC, Mr Fisher sets UK interest rates at monthly meetings in the Bank of England. The rate has been kept at 0.5% since 2009.

On a two-day trip to Northern Ireland he met over 70 different businesses at round table discussions and visited both Hilden Brewery in Lisburn and spray dispenser firm Canyon Europe in Newtonabbey.

And the central banker said he was impressed with the people he'd met.

"There are a lot of passionate business people in Northern Ireland, more than perhaps there are elsewhere and that's what is really needed," he said.

"Governments and central banks can only set the conditions for economic recovery, it's up to individual businesses to actually produce output, to create employment and to come up with ideas.

"If the government sector is having to pull back, then it's the private sector that has to step up to the plate and deliver. That passion and commitment to business is what you need to succeed."

He said it was clear the property boom and bust had hit the economy here harder than in other parts of the UK and was given a differing view of the struggles in the credit market.

Northern Ireland's banks, who also met with Mr Fisher, said the demand for credit is weaker here than it is in the rest of the UK while businesses said the supply of credit is more difficult to find.

"It's the same problems, but a different set of banks and a more concentrated problem because of the property overhang," he said.

Mr Fisher pointed out that of the six big banks which are responsible for 80% of the lending across the UK, only one of those - Ulster Bank - operates on these shores while Bank of Ireland and First Trust are Dublin-owned or, in the case of Northern Bank, Danish-owned.

He said he'd also been asked about the issue of corporation tax, the implications of which he felt weren't fully understood.

"That has (allowing Northern Ireland to lower its corporation tax) been an ongoing theme but I'm not sure it's appreciated that it would need to be self financing.".

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