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Time is right to grow our own economy


Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Business Editor Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's main business bodies are continuing their dogged campaign for a cut in corporation tax.

The drive to permit the devolution of tax powers to the Assembly so that it can then legislate to bring our main rate of corporation tax closer to that in the Republic, had been running at full throttle and it seemed to be at the heart of every business event or launch.

But understandably, Westminster's decision to delay saying yes or no until after the Scottish referendum in September seemed to clip the wings of the campaign – and many felt the point, and the political argument, had already been made eloquently enough.

September 18 2014 seemed like a distant, far-off time, almost too far away to compute for businesspeople busy dealing with the day-to-day of business.

But believe it or not, it's almost here, and Scotland will go to the polls in just three months' time. As their big day looms, campaigners here are arguing their case with the fervour and conviction we've become used to.

Eamonn Donaghy of KPMG has not flagged in his commitment to the tax-cut cause.

And the anti-tax cut lobby is also reiterating its position, arguing that it will simply enrich businesspeople and put more pressure on public services as the move will inevitably come with a a substantial cut in Northern Ireland's block grant.

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Richard Murphy, who has become the poster child of the anti-cut movement – the John McEnroe to Eamonn Donaghy's Bjorn Borg – argues that the UK Coalition government's continuing policy on reducing its main corporate tax rate, from 28% when they came into power to the present 21%, has not led to a flood of big international investors coming into GB.

It has, however, increased the attractiveness of UK companies as takeover targets, in the case of AstraZeneca and its recent forceful – and ultimately doomed – wooing by Pfizer in the US.

Our business people are men and women of action, for whom fulfilment of their greatest wish means waiting on Westminster.

They have often said there can be no 'Plan B' if we are knocked back on corporation tax.

I hope it will happen for Northern Ireland plc, but if not, let's leap into action and grow our own economy, ourselves.