Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland economic growth remains 'sluggish' amid weaker domestic and export sales

From left: Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber, Brian Murphy of BDO, economist Maureen O’Reilly and Chris Morrow of NI Chamber
From left: Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber, Brian Murphy of BDO, economist Maureen O’Reilly and Chris Morrow of NI Chamber
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Economic growth in Northern Ireland remained "sluggish" during the second quarter, a new report has suggested.

The latest quarterly economic survey from the NI Chamber and advisory firm BDO found that while most firms reported positives around jobs and investment, responses pointed to weaker domestic and export sales, with falling order books flagged up as a cause for concern by researchers.

The report is based on the responses of 224 companies across the manufacturing and services sectors, employing a total of 27,000 people here.

It stated that some of the economic gains made in the recent post-recovery period had been eroded since the 2016 Brexit vote. The survey also flagged up growing concerns over cash flow for companies, while fewer businesses said they were operating at full capacity.

Brian Murphy, managing partner at BDO, said: "Businesses continue to operate cautiously in their respective markets as we come to the end of the second quarter, although it should be noted there is still a reassuring confidence around growth prospects."

The survey pointed to the growing disparity between larger companies and Northern Ireland's smallest firms when it comes to Brexit preparations.

A total of 62% of businesses indicated they had initiated some steps to prepare for life outside the EU.

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The figure rose to 77% for just the manufacturers. Last week, an all-island survey of hundreds of small bushiness carried out by AIB, found that just 11% of micro firms were prepared for Brexit.

The issue of exchange rates was flagged up as the biggest pressure on business during the second quarter, with 42% of firms flagging it up - more than double the 19% who identified it as an issue before the EU referendum.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber, explained while most key indicators are positive, there remains cause for concern for future growth.

"Companies urgently need to see a pro-business approach from the new government," she said.

"Without a sensible and pragmatic plan to break the Brexit impasse and the urgent restoration of power-sharing at Stormont, these indicators could quickly become starkly negative economic realities and the business community will find itself in an even more challenging position next quarter.

"We have to find a way to stop the Northern Ireland economy losing any more ground."

Belfast Telegraph