'Executive needs to do more to unleash growth'
The stormont executive must do more this year to unleash business growth in Northern Ireland, the region's biggest business organisation has said. And among its priorities must be to address the structural failure in business finance so that firms can access the working capital, as well as keeping the pressure on Treasury to devolve corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland before the next general election in May 2015.
The call has come from the NI Chamber of Commerce, which has a membership of more than 1,200 businesses employing 100,000 people.
Chamber president Mark Nodder insists that if the executive does more to support exports, make important decisions to fix the long-term structural failure in business finance and pursue the devolution of corporation tax powers, it is "possible to achieve not just a good recovery but a truly great and sustainable economy".
"We've many reasons to be optimistic as we enter a new year, with the UK economy growing at its fastest rate for three years, a buoyant jobs market and lower borrowing forecasts," he said.
"But we must turn the good growth we have seen over recent months into really great sustainable growth.
"There are firms in Northern Ireland which cannot access the finance they need to realise their long-term growth ambitions, to go from being small businesses to medium-sized ones and beyond.
"Companies here are still finding it difficult to access finance for faster growth, especially in exports. This is an issue for both banks and businesses and both need to change - we're in a new lending environment.
"The early successes achieved by the Growth Loan Fund show that with some risk and the appropriate support measures then some deals can be done.
"Business confidence is key to unleashing business growth this year.
"Northern Ireland businesses are working hard, want to grow and are certain of their own abilities. But this confidence needs to be nurtured so that it becomes stronger still.
"We have many businesses locally which have the potential to be the best in the world and start exporting. More firms must follow the lead of the likes of Bombardier, Chesapeake, Moy Park and Niche Drinks."
Mr Nodder said the chamber's biggest priority for 2014 is to increase the number of exporters in Northern Ireland.
"exports continue to decline, and Northern Ireland lags behind the rest of the UK with regards to the number of active exporters.
"We will continue providing practical support through a range of private sector led growth and export programmes and continue to challenge government to ensure we have a business environment conducive to business growth.
"We will continue to focus on inspiring export and new initiatives include a UKTI supported initiative with the world-wide chamber network to support trade.
"We will also continue with our 'Growing something Brilliant' campaign with the aim of inspiring more businesses to set up, grow and export by looking at what has already been achieved by the business community in Northern Ireland and sharing the good news that is out there."