Belfast Telegraph

Stormont assembly impasse damaging business, investment and job creation, says Northern Ireland CBI chief

By John Mulgrew

Each day without a working government at Stormont hinders business, investment and job creation, a business leader has warned.

Angela McGowan, director of the CBI in Northern Ireland, said the impact that "any political vacuum has on the business community should never be underestimated".

"Having a devolved government up and running again before the end of June is critical for local firms - for economic policy and for job creation," she added.

"Each day without a devolved government is a lost opportunity to make progress on the key economic issues that shape the business landscape.

"A political vacuum comes with a very high economic price tag - it hinders business, it puts investment at risk, it deters foreign direct investment and it dramatically reduces our ability to deliver those job creation promises in the Programme for Government."

Mrs McGowan was speaking during the CBI's annual dinner at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

Political parties have been locked in an impasse since the collapse of the devolved institutions in January.

Formal talks have now been paused until after the General Election on June 8.

On Brexit, Ms McGowan said: "Europe's leaders will shortly be meeting to agree a common response to the Article 50 letter.

"Brexit is gathering pace, underlining the pressing need for a strong and cohesive political voice championing our interests in London, Dublin, and in Brussels, and ensuring Northern Ireland's special circumstances are heard and understood.

"Closer to home, business wants to see immediate progress on delivering a lower corporation tax rate, the construction of the second North-South Interconnector, a step change of investment in transport infrastructure and a renewed focus on education reform to ensure no young person is left behind in an increasingly digitalised economy."

Also addressing around 600 business guests last night, CBI Northern Ireland chairman, David Gavaghan said: "(While there is no denying that the business community faces huge challenges ahead... our future growth is dependent on how successful Northern Ireland will be at supporting the creation of businesses that are at the cutting edge of the global economy".

"Both government and business can take lessons from two local people who confronted their fears and inhibitions to become global leaders in their respective fields.

"Colin Williams from Sixteen South is at the forefront of children's film animation. Professor Sir John McCanny is a world leader in cyber security and led the initiative that created the Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT) here in Belfast. CSIT is now known as the UK's Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Cybersecurity and has facilitated the creation of more than 1,00 new jobs in the local knowledge economy.

"What they and others like them have achieved demonstrates that Northern Ireland has an abundance of talent.

"Government and business must work together to harness talent and infuse it with the necessary ambition to facilitate the emergence of a new generation of Northern Irish global leaders."

Adrian Doran, head of corporate banking, Barclays - the event's strategic partner supported by MCS Group - said small and medium firms remained the "backbone of our local economy, and we really do have some world-class small businesses".

"In the current climate it's especially vital that these businesses get continued support to thrive and grow," he added. "At this event last year, we announced our £100m SME loan fund, and we are delighted with how this has been taken up.

"Barclays UK has also recognised the sheer quality and quantity of high-growth businesses in Northern Ireland, as Belfast has just been selected as a location for one of its Barclays Eagle Lab business incubators, its 10th in the UK."

Belfast Telegraph