Posted on Sunday 9 October 2011 by Ulster Business

CBI eyes strong political leadership to deliver economic growth

Northern Ireland needs strong political leadership with a clear vision and commitment of resources aligned to that vision in order to grow its economy.

That was the message delivered by the chairman of CBI Northern Ireland Chairman Terence Brannigan at the lobby group’s Annual Lunch, attended by 350 senior executives from companies representing a third of the private sector workforce in the province.

“We need to build confidence across our community and in the business sector. We need political leadership which focuses on the politics of the future rather than on the politics of the past,” said Mr Brannigan.

The CBI chairman also said that following a series of meetings with the new ministerial team that makes up the Executive he was optimistic about their commitment to the economy.

“‘I am much encouraged – in most there has been a refreshing attitude; there is recognition that the Executive must deliver; there is a growing attitude of ‘can do’, a determination to make decisions and to get things done. In many cases there is common cause and agreement on what needs to be done and in shaping priorities. But, let’s be clear, this is not about intentions, this is about delivery and therefore, the real proof of intent will be in what is actually achieved over the next few years. I sincerely hope, indeed expect, that the opportunity will be taken to deliver the change and the reform that is necessary, if we are truly to transform, for the better, our economy and the lives of all of our citizens. This will require strong political leadership,” he said.

In regards to the opportunity to reduce Corporation tax Mr Brannigan added: ‘We need to manage the transition but, CBI evidence to the recent HM Treasury consultation highlighted that, by phasing-in a reduction in Corporation tax, the cost in the early years could potentially be modest.”

He encouraged the First Minister and his Executive colleagues to press forward with some urgency on the issue, which CBI and many other business organisations believe has the potential to transform the economy.

In response, First Minister Peter Robinson told the audience at the La Mon Hotel that the Executive was focused on helping to create the conditions for economic growth.

On the issue of Corporation Tax Mr Robinson gave an assurance that he would “vigorously pursue this once in a lifetime opportunity”.

While the Minister said detailed discussions were still taking place, he added that is was an opportunity “we will and must grasp, if offered to us on satisfactory terms”.

Mr Robinson also stressed that the reform of public services was essential because the deferral of tough decisions had already made things worse for the people of Northern Ireland.

He said the Executive would push ahead with initiatives designed to reduce bureaucracy and raise additional revenue, confirming the formation of an asset management unit tasked with generating an additional £100m over the current spending review period.

The First Minister also noted that Stormont “has to face up to the fact that we won’t get new funds from Westminster” and as such must consider alternative sources of finance, including joint ventures with the private sector.

“In this time of constrained spending, we must be open to all options,” he said.

The Minister confirmed that he expected to shortly be able to make some announcements on Foreign Direct Investment linked to his visit to the US over the summer.

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