Posted on Friday 23 March 2012 by Ulster Business
CBI Northern Ireland chairman Ian Coulter, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and guest speaker Sir John Parker, chairman of Anglo American plc.
Making his inaugural speech to a packed audience of over 600 business leaders at the CBI Annual Dinner in La Mon Hotel and Country Club last night, CBI NI Chairman Ian Coulter compared Northern Ireland’s challenges with the success of the World Cup winning All Blacks.
“New Zealand applies a very narrow focus by placing its rugby team first, second and last. If Northern Ireland puts our economy first, second and last, together with an obsession with specific skills, a maximisation of their talent, and a coherent and well understood strategy, then what a force we would be to be reckoned with,” he said.
Mr Coulter said it was correct that the Stormont Executive’s primary aim, set out in its Economic Strategy, is to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy.
“With only a marginal change in the private sector percentage share of GDP since 1993, how do we transition from a public sector dependent economy to one that is underpinned by a more dynamic private sector?” he asked.
“The Economic strategy is a welcome framework for supporting growth in our economy but we need a more laser like focus on our gazelle companies and sectors, if we are to achieve our ambitious targets.”
Mr Coulter called on the Executive to do the following things to achieve this:
He added that the Executive “must accelerate cooperation on a number of key areas of intervention” both across Stormont departments and “with our friends in both Dublin and London”, identifying a number of particular areas to focus on.
Speaking at the dinner Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, who is also the Tourism Minister, said there had never been a better time for the private sector here to take the lead in rebalancing the economy.
She said the business opportunities presented by the NI2012 campaign running this year extended well beyond tourism.
Arlene Foster said: “The opening of Titanic Belfast and the exciting Titanic Belfast Festival is of course central among the eight international-scale events that we have developed to enable Northern Ireland to shine on a global stage in this hugely important year.”
The Minister added that 2012 was not just about focusing on tourism but rather about changing global perceptions of Northern Ireland by showcasing new and iconic images of this place.
She said: “I believe it will fundamentally reposition Northern Ireland as a positive place not only to visit but to live, work, study and invest. It is about growing a long term sustainable economy.
“It is a golden, unprecedented opportunity for us to use the events of this year to build economic recovery, create new businesses and provide greater employment for people here.”
Over the next four years around £1bn will be invested in transforming the economy into one driven by the private sector and aiming to promote 25,000 new jobs.
Last year 1.8 million tourists visited Northern Ireland, generating £336m for the local economy and helping to sustain over 40,000 jobs across the province.
Minister Foster added: “Perceptions are changing, and of course as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, I want this to continue and accelerate. Our message is clear: Northern Ireland is a great and welcoming place to visit and an exceptional location for business investment.”