Northern Ireland

Economic report calls for public sector reform and enhanced connectivity

Glyn Roberts, Retail NI, Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI, and Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster, are in London to launch a new economic report (Trade NI/PA)
Glyn Roberts, Retail NI, Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI, and Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster, are in London to launch a new economic report (Trade NI/PA) Glyn Roberts, Retail NI, Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI, and Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster, are in London to launch a new economic report (Trade NI/PA)

A new economic report suggests reform of the public sector in Northern Ireland and enhanced ground and air connectivity as a blueprint for prosperity in the region.

Trade NI, an alliance of three trade bodies – Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing Northern Ireland, and Retail Northern Ireland – will launch the paper to a reception of more than 200 business leaders, senior Cabinet ministers, 80 MPs, and policymakers at an event at Westminster on Tuesday.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and shadow secretary of state Peter Kyle will be among those delivering speeches at the event on the House of Commons Terrace.

Northern Ireland budget
Northern Ireland budget Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris will attend the launch of a new economic report (Liam McBurney/PA)

There will also be a reception at the Irish embassy in London hosted by Irish ambassador to the UK Martin Fraser.

The report, A Region Transformed and Creating Prosperity For All: The Prosperity Dividend, has been produced by accountancy and business advisory consultancy BDO NI and focuses on the economic transformation of Northern Ireland since 1998.

It examines how local industries, businesses and high streets have been boosted by peace, prosperity and greater stability.

The report identifies key strengths of the Northern Irish economy and how these can be leveraged to deliver greater economic growth and prosperity in future decades for local communities and businesses.

The Westminster reception will be hosted by Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry.

Good Friday Agreement 25th Anniversary
Good Friday Agreement 25th Anniversary Stephen Farry will host an event launching a new economic report (Liam McBurney/PA)

Recommendations in the paper include:

– Creation of pathways to ensure businesses have the people they need to deliver for customers.

– More investment in universities and further education colleges to increase the number of places.

– Establishing Northern Ireland as a pilot area for a skills tax credit scheme to rapidly skill up industries and establish a new funding stream for public and private sector training.

– Public sector reform to reverse the region’s historic dependency.

– A commitment that UK support for decarbonisation, childcare and economic zones reaches Northern Ireland.

– Enhanced ground and air connectivity, abolishment of air passenger duty and reduce hospitality and tourism VAT.

– Capitalising on Northern Ireland’s dual market access trading position.

In a joint statement, the representatives of Trade NI, Glyn Roberts (Retail NI), Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster) and Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI) said: “Northern Ireland has vast untapped potential.

“We have a skilled workforce, a steady pipeline of talent from our higher and further education institutions, dual market access, and emerging clusters in new industries like tech, cyber security, and health and life sciences.

“But there is so much more we can achieve if we get the fundamental building blocks in place.

“Things like ensuring political stability at Stormont, fixing our planning system to facilitate speedier construction of major capital infrastructure projects, investing in our educational institutions to ensure our workforce of the future has the right skills and competencies, capitalising on our dual market access, and reforming our public sector to remove our dependence on it.”

Mr Heaton-Harris said: “With Northern Ireland’s strengths in key growth sectors, workforce expertise, the drive and creativity of its business community, and the benefits of the Windsor Framework providing a stable framework for the future, I’m confident it can continue to grow and thrive.

“I welcome the contribution that Trade NI have made to the debate on how to secure prosperity in Northern Ireland and I look forward to the continued opportunity to engage with their members on how the UK Government can help deliver the continued prosperity that Northern Ireland deserves.”