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RICS chief says there's life after spending cuts

Northern Ireland can emerge from the impending period of public spending cuts stronger and more competitive.

That is according to the new local chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, University of Ulster property expert, Professor Alastair Adair.

Professor Adair, who becomes chairman of RICS Northern Ireland for 2010-11, said today that austerity measures signalled in last week's Budget will bring a large amount of pain, but that this should be viewed as a catalyst for positive change and an opportunity to restructure the local economy.

"Not since the 1970s have we had such a massive incentive to ensure the cost-effectiveness of our public and private sectors," he said.

"By taking a constructive and pro-active approach to the current public spending environment, Northern Ireland can create a cost-effective public sector and a more competitive private sector. The Northern Ireland Executive must act quickly and decisively in developing a strategy for dealing with the 25% cut in departmental expenditure limits over the next four years."

Professor Adair said RICS, which has 3000 members in Northern Ireland and 140,000 members around the world, fully supports the Northern Ireland Executive in developing a strategy for economic growth and urged it to work with the private sector to achieve its goals.

He stressed that urgent action is required to address issues of affordability in the housing market and targeting limited capital expenditure on infrastructure and schools projects.

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The RICS chief also advocated introduction of more innovative financing measures.

"We should not stop at a reduced level of corporation tax but should consider innovative vehicles such as business improvement districts, already considered by local government in Northern Ireland, and tax incremental financing which are proven methods of raising public finance in other jurisdictions," he said.

"While these are difficult times for Northern Ireland households, the Executive should consider the early introduction of water charges to ensure much needed investment in our infrastructure. This is a necessary step if Northern Ireland is going to compete effectively in a global economy and avoid fines from the EU for sub standard water infrastructure.

"The planned autumn report on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy presents a unique opportunity for the Executive and Minister Wilson to be bold in planning for economic growth."