Business

CBI calls for executive reform to deliver prosperity

The north's executive must reform to deliver greater economic stability

THE Northern Ireland executive must be reformed to deliver more stable government and greater economic prosperity, a leading business body has said.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in the north has launched a 12-point manifesto of change which it argues will create a more prosperous Northern Ireland.

But it said in order to make it a reality, a new economic, social and political environment was required - with tens of thousands of new jobs the prize.

Top of the CBI's list is a rate and date to be set for the north's corporation tax.

It also wants agreement that Northern Ireland is best served by remaining in a reformed European Union.

On education, it has urged for a greater emphasis on computing and coding in schools.

And the CBI said university tuition fees should be increased to "at least £6,000" in a move which it said would "support great provision and wider participation".

On infrastructure, the CBI wants securing the North-South Interconnector to be a priority and calls for a longer term strategic energy vision.

Timescales should be set for upgrading the A6 an A5 roads, it argued.

And the body said, whatever the programme for government, it should be agreed before running d'Hondt.

CBI's chairman in the north, Colin Walsh said making reforms would trigger growth in the private sector.

"In the long run, the private sector needs to grow very substantially, maybe even to double in size for Northern Ireland to have a truly successful economy. The first step towards this goal must be a reformed Executive, with new mechanisms and procedures that delivers results and brings an end to the recent series of standoffs, logjams and showdowns," he said.

Mr Walsh, managing director of business funding firm Crescent Capital said "a new economic vision" could only come after the political foundations are laid.

"This new vision must recognise that Northern Ireland competes within a global marketplace for investment and talent, appreciates the value of investing in infrastructure, and above all, understands that tough economic choices cannot remain undecided forever," he said.

The body's director Nigel Smyth the next executive "has a historic opportunity to put in place far reaching measures that will close the economic gap with other regions and nations and deliver the prosperity that Northern Ireland so desperately needs. Achieving a more sustainable economy and providing many more, and better opportunities for all, will require leadership, co-operation and partnerships.

“The alternative is an anaemic economy, dependent on handouts from Westminster, and perhaps most critically an entire generation resigned to the prospect of an era of lost opportunities. We need ambition on driving forward changes to make government fit for the 21st century, and to deliver radical transformations to deliver better outcomes for users of public services.”

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry called on politicians to accept help from former US President Bill Clinton to intervene in the current impasse.

Chamber president Stephen McCully said: "Any offer of help from the US should be grasped by Northern Ireland’s parties."

"Northern Ireland is not in a good place politically and progress must be made before the end of the year. The situation requires urgency and maturity and if American influence can help push the situation along then the offer should not be ignored," he added.

Former US envoy Richard Haass was drafted in last year to help broker the Stormont House Agreement but almost a year on, it has yet to be fully implemented.

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