Posted on Friday 15 November 2013 by Ulster Business


Speakers Paul Smith from Celador and Finance Minister Simon Hamilton with NI Chamber president Mark Nodder.

The president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce has called on the Executive to make commitments to stick with the campaign for lower corporation tax, to improve planning and to work together to avoid a repeat of last year's flag protests.

Speaking at the Chamber's President's Banquet at Titanic Belfast last night, Mark Nodder said such commitments were needed to help the local economy keep growing.

The event, titled 'NI Chamber Rocks', was organised in line with Belfast Music Week and celebrated the creative industries in Northern Ireland.

Mr Nodder, who is also Group Managing Director at Wrightbus, said: "Tonight we are recognising the contribution of our creative industries to the economy and local culture. This sector harnesses individual skills, talent and creativity whilst generating wealth and developing intellectual property. It has put Northern Ireland on a world stage through film and television productions and must be commended for its contribution to the Northern Ireland economy.

"Recent business barometers show that business confidence in the province is on a positive trend at last. If we are to continue this trend we must receive some commitments from the Northern Ireland Executive and other key stakeholders.

"Firstly, the executive must not allow David Cameron to renege on his pledge to look sympathetically at corporation tax devolution after the referendum on Scottish independence. The Executive must also sort out the planning system once and for all. It is a barrier to investment, and it needs urgent reform. Lastly we need urgent resolution from the executive around protests and parades. We know it will take negotiation, compromise and concession by all but this must stop now. Businesses operating in tourism need visitors; our large SME base needs large inward investors to supply; ours exporters need to demonstrate security of supply and our young people need jobs.

"Finally we ask that Banks engage with the new Access to Finance Implementation Panel, help our SME's develop business plans for growth and take some measured risk."

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA was guest speaker at the event and his address focused on his plans to reform the public sector and make it more innovative.

Simon Hamilton said: "Creative Industries and tourism are two parts of the new economy we are building in Northern Ireland which will sit alongside the ICT financial services, advanced engineering and agri-food sectors that are already driving forward our economic recovery.

"However, a sector that isn't considered part of our economic future is the public sector.

"It's one thing that government ensures that the skills we need to compete in the global fight for investment and jobs are provided for through our universities and colleges or government backed training programmes. Or that government invests in infrastructure like the A26 or new regional children's hospital that provides a pipeline of work for our construction industry.

"But, it's quite another that over a third of our workforce is directly employed by the public sector or that government spending is two thirds of Gross Value Added (GVA)."

The Minister added: "Critics of government would often refer to us as big, bloated and bureaucratic and something that is an impediment to economic growth. It would be very rare that we would be described as innovators, investors or risk takers.

"But that's exactly what our government frequently is. Would the private sector alone have built Titanic Belfast? Without the almost £50m of public money invested, it's unlikely this venue and the benefits it brings would be a reality.

"HBO are here in Northern Ireland in part because of government assistance through both Invest NI and tax breaks as well as the public investment in the Paint Hall.

"There is ample evidence of government – especially in Northern Ireland – intervening early, developing an enabling environment, de-risking strategically significant projects and creating the conditions for business to flourish.

"I want to see our economy better balanced with a private sector that is bigger, more dynamic, more competitive and more export orientated. Not only do we need to reassess the exiting role of the state as an investor and risk taker but continue to reinvent and reform that role so that we can work and deliver in partnership for the people of Northern Ireland."

Referring to public sector reform the Minister added: "We shouldn't be afraid of our public sector. Instead we should embrace its potential as a driver of the economy. As an entity that can inspire innovation and entrepreneurship.

"I firmly believe that a reformed public sector is one of the cornerstones of a vibrant and dynamic economy. Entrepreneurial governments attract investment. Enterprising governments produce enterprising economies.

"We need a government that ensures that the fundamental foundations upon which economic recovery will be built are in place, it needs it to be more efficient and more effective.

"Let's start to see our public sector as something that can be an advantage, working with business to build the better economy Northern Ireland so badly needs."



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