Business

Lack of an Executive putting investment at risk warns CBI

The sold-out CBI Northern Ireland annual dinner was held last night in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, with a 600-strong crowd in attendance
Gareth McKeown

Each day without a devolved government in place is putting investment at risk according to the CBI's Northern Ireland director.

Addressing the annual regional dinner in Belfast's Waterfront Hall last night Angela McGowan said that having the Executive back up and running before the end of June was "critical" for local firms, economic policy and job creation.

"Each day without a devolved government is a lost opportunity to make progress on the key economic issues that shape the Northern Ireland business landscape," she told the 600 strong sold-out audience.

"A political vacuum comes with a very high economic price tag - it hinders business, it puts investment at risk, it deters FDI and it dramatically reduces our ability to deliver those job creation promises in the Programme for Government."

Mrs McGowan further stressed the importance Northern Ireland's special circumstances are "heard and understood" in the Brexit negotiations and highlighted priorities for the local business community in the short term.

"Business wants to see immediate progress on delivering a lower corporation tax rate, the construction of the second North/South Interconnector, a step change of investment in transport infrastructure and a renewed focus on education reform to ensure no young person is left behind in an increasingly digitalised economy," she said.

CBI Northern Ireland chair David Gavaghan said more Northern Ireland businesses are now demonstrating global ambition and highlighted the "abundance of talent" in the region, which must be supported.

"Government and business must work together to harness that talent and infuse it with the necessary ambition to facilitate the emergence of a new generation of Northern Irish global leaders," he said.

In his speech the head of corporate banking at Barclays Bank Adrian Doran said SMEs were the "backbone" of the local economy and needed "continued support" to thrive and grow.

Following dinner the CBI hosted a panel debate with senior elected officials from the five leading regional political parties. Responding to questions from businesses, each representative was asked to outline their party's economic ambitions for Northern Ireland.

Taking part were: Steve Aiken MLA (UUP); Mark Durkan MP (SDLP); Stephen Farry MLA (Alliance); Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA (SF) and Gavin Robinson MP (DUP).

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