Business

Lack of Executive set to cost north's economy almost £1bn by end of 2019 says CBI

New analysis from the CBI reveals that if the Northern Ireland Executive is not restored by the end of 2019, the estimated total loss to economic output could be approximately £940 million
Gareth McKeown

THE ongoing lack of a Stormont government will have cost the north's economy almost £1 billion by the end of 2019, according to new research.

The analysis from the CBI reveals that if the Northern Ireland Executive is not restored by the end of this calendar year, the estimated total loss to economic output since the Stormont collapse in January 2017 could be approximately £940 million.

Speaking at the CBI Northern Ireland annual dinner in Belfast last night, CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn urgently called on local politicians to ensure power-sharing talks do not break down into further stalemate and deadlock.

“In boardrooms across the country, business leaders know all about differences of opinion and robust debate. Over questions about where to invest, who to hire and how to run a company. But for the most successful among them, stalemate simply is not an option. They have no choice but to reach consensus," she told the audience at the ICC Waterfront.

“I have just one message to those involved in power-sharing talks here in Belfast: Why not adopt the business approach? You bear a historic responsibility.

“Business is crying out for compromise because the cost of failure now would be so great. This money could help fix roads, eradicate waiting lists in Northern Irish hospitals or transform education in primary and secondary schools.

“Restoring power to Stormont is the only way to do achieve this. What was once pressing is now desperately urgent," Ms Fairbairn continued.

In her address, the CBI chief also referred to Brexit and described the introduction of a hard border as an "economic wrecking ball" for Northern Ireland.

“In the 21 years since the Good Friday Agreement and the border barriers were removed, Northern Irish businesses have created thousands of extra jobs. Unemployment is at its lowest rate on record and Northern Irish goods exports have risen at an average of nearly 7 per cent a year, year-on-year for two decades.

“Together businesses are this nation's greatest source of jobs, prosperity and collaboration. It must be the business voice that shapes the policies that work for Northern Ireland's people and its future prosperity," she said.

Ms Fairbairn believes that the north can achieve "lasting growth" with the right strategic investment and welcomed the the city deals for the Derry region and Belfast. However, she said only through a restored devolved government will the island's economic potential be realised.

"A true partnership between government and business that could bring peace, prosperity and progress for the whole of Ireland. If we get this right, business has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to unlock the extraordinary potential of this island," she added.

In his speech, Adrian Doran, Northern Ireland head of corporate banking at Barclays praised local businesses for their resilience in the face of prolonged uncertainty.

“Despite the challenges highlighted by the CBI, business here has continued to thrive. Companies are to be applauded for their ambition, innovation and resilience. There is, however, still much more to be done if Northern Ireland is to fully achieve its undoubted potential," Mr Doran said.

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