'Reboot' of Northern Ireland's economic policy required, Stormont committee told

Glyn Roberts, NIIRTA, was addressing Stormont's economy committee

THE Stormont executive must "reboot" its economic policy in the wake of the EU referendum result, a committee has heard.

Leading business figure Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Retail Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) said it was time for politicians to be "more ambitious" about the region's prospects.

Speaking to the assembly's economy committee, Mr Roberts asked: "Rather than accepting a growth rate of one or two percent, could we achieve 10 per cent growth over the next five years?"

And he said plans to reduce the north's corporation tax rate to 12.5 per cent would be worthless "without real investment in skills and infrastructure".

Since the agreement to devolve corporation tax powers, there have been reports the UK government could respond to a hard Brexit by reducing the nationwide rate to as low as 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump is also set to lower the rate in the US.

"When you consider that President Trump has indicated that the US may move to a 15 per cent corporation tax rate, with the UK government post-Brexit indicating they may lower their headline rate of corporation tax down to as low as 10 per cent, in many respects the world has moved on from our corporation tax debate," Mr Roberts added.

"Whilst it is important we do devolve it and have those powers at hand I think without that investment in skills and training, without that investment in our infrastructure, the potential for corporation tax will be lost."

He said a "multi-business approach" to skills and infrastructure was needed.

"We ignore those two vital areas of our economy at our peril," he said.

Mr Roberts outlined a number of key priorities for his organisation's members, including reform of the rating system.

The NIIRTA published its own suggested programme for government prior to the Assembly election, setting out almost 100 proposed action areas for the power-sharing administration.

"Since we published our own plan last February the world has changed many times over and our economic policy has to change and that's why I think our central message in terms of this new programme for government consultation is we need a reboot and a fundamental reassessment of our economic policy," he added.

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