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Fears Northern Ireland economy could shrink as report highlights patchy growth


The lack of an Executive has frustrated business.

The lack of an Executive has frustrated business.

The lack of an Executive has frustrated business.

The Northern Ireland economy continues to show some growth in the last few months of the year, according to a new survey. However, there are concerns it will shrink as the year progresses.

But the province remains one of the UK’s weakest-performing regions overall, with manufacturing firms nervous about making investments.

And both manufacturers and services sector firms — covering everything from restaurants to estate agents — were concerned about cash flow, according to the quarterly economic survey from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and business advisors BDO.

Businesses were also frustrated at the lack of an Executive — and a growing number of firms were putting growth and investment on hold as a result of Brexit, according to the survey. 

Nearly half of all firms expect the economy to shrink during the year, with a third expected it to grow.

But firms were more optimistic about their own prospects, with over 60% expecting their businesses to expand.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber, said: “Despite pockets of resilience and success, and strong results for some firms, the bigger picture is one of slow economic growth amid uncertain trading conditions. 

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“Continued uncertainty over Brexit and the burden of upfront cost pressures facing businesses is likely to stifle business investment and put pressure on prices in an already challenging inflationary environment.”