A global financial firm is to create 400 new jobs in Belfast - and a top economist claims that other firms could follow suit if Northern Ireland’s cripplingly high level of corporation tax is reduced.
American-owned finance company Citibank and Assembly leaders Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are expected to formally announce the bank’s jobs expansion later this week.
Mike Smyth, head of the University of Ulster’s School of Economics, said a cut in corporation tax could bring further job windfalls.
“If we get similar corporation tax that they enjoy south of the border then there will be more Citibank-style investments coming into Northern Ireland,” he said.
His comments came as an influential committee of MPs began hearings at Westminster last week into the possibility of cutting the province’s 28% tax level to 12% to bring it into line with the Republic.
Mr Smyth said: “It’s great that Citi group are here, that’s marvellous.
“I welcome their expansion, but we could do much better. We have to support the campaign to get corporation tax at least as low as in the Republic.”
Mr Smyth, who is also a member of the European economics advisory group, said while the jobs were “welcome news”, the success should be contrasted with the record of the Republic’s Industrial Development Authority, which has drawn many high-profile clients.
“In the last year alone the IDA has attracted at least 18 major foreign investments into the Republic,” he continued.
“We don’t get a look-in from big pharmaceuticals and from much of the information and communication technology companies.
“The fact of the matter is, big European headquarters are in Dublin, they are not here.
“We do very well with the offering that we have based on low cost, but it is not a viable long-term strategy.
“The only thing that is going to get Northern Ireland out of this is by levelling the playing field.”
The creation of the new posts in Belfast’s Titanic quarter will raise the global bank’s employee numbers in Belfast to 1,000, making it one of the biggest financial sector employers in the province.
The jobs announcement is believed to be a result of the First and Deputy First Ministers’ negotiations in Washington recently.
They were joined by economic officials last month at an Economic Conference on Northern Ireland hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Citi is one of the world’s leading banks, handling accounts for more than 200 million people and doing business in over 100 countries.
It is understood it was offered significant financial incentives to expand in Belfast.
The Stormont Executive is attempting to persuade the Treasury to allow Northern Ireland to have a rate that can compete with the Republic, which is currently less than half of the 28% UK rate of corporation tax.