Wed 3rd Jul 2013
Examining the importance of creating an Enterprise Zone in growing private sector
Chamber President Francis Martin examined the importance of creating an Enterprise Zone in growing private sector as part of the Agenda NI ‘Rebalancing the Northern Ireland Economy’ Seminar on Friday 20 May 2011.
A copy of Francis Martin’s speech is below:
EXAMINING THE IMPORTANCE OF CREATING AN ENTERPRISE ZONE IN GROWING PRIVATE SECTOR
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today at what I regard as a very important moment in the economic development of Northern Ireland.
We are at a time now of economic convergence.
A number of factors are aligned which can either make or break Northern Ireland economically. Everyone here knows and accepts the importance of getting the economy right in a region like ours; from economic stability and sustainability, a prosperous society will emerge. Getting the economy of Northern Ireland right really is that important.
It is also important to pause and ask why our economy needs to change. While I speak today as a business representative, my ambition and focus on this issue extends beyond business to all sections of Northern Ireland society.
And let me be clear: if we rise to the occasion and meet the challenges before us we will see Northern Ireland transformed: increased growth will generate increased employment and prosperity right across the region.
We do not need to look far to see the problems associated with social deprivation. A smarter better economy means we lift those sections of society which have so far missed out on the peace dividend and ensure their standard of living and access to opportunity is the same as those around them.
So how do we do that? I speak of converging economic factors, what does this mean?
This week we have a new Executive in Northern Ireland. While there are some changes among personnel around the cabinet table – and we wish all of our Ministers every success – Peter Robinson has clearly decided that if something is not broken then it doesn’t need to be fixed, and so we have the return of Arlene Foster as DETI Minister. That is good news and it means that the business community is not waiting for a new Minister to read her way into a brief or to identify the issues. Arlene knows the issues and more importantly, she knows the opportunities which exist. We wish her well in her role.
Northern Ireland is closer now than at any time in the last decade of realising the ambition of having the power to vary Corporation Tax devolved to our local government. The Treasury consultation document on Rebalancing the Economy is seeking views on the impact of a lowering tax; in Owen Paterson we have a Secretary of State who is more than just engaged in the issue, he is indeed a zealot! He will take the political fight to Treasury as long as the Northern Ireland community gives him the positive response which I believe we must.
On the question of corporation tax our political parties are broadly united. During the recent elections, each manifesto contained some differences of emphasis but each signed up to a reduction of the tax as an engine of economic change. Another economic star aligned!
Last Autumn the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce presented to Ministers and Departments, an economic policy document designed to stimulate jobs and growth in Northern Ireland. “Enabling Economic Excellence” identified a number of pro active measures which would assist in shifting the balance of the local economy from public sector to private, from dependency to long term sustainability.
Our ambition as a Chamber in setting about this work was to produce a manifesto which boldly reforms our economy, not just one to solve our budget deficit, or to look at short term gains or quick wins. The manifesto flags up the need for a step change in the way we do things – a new way of running our economy with the private sector returning to centre-stage and not playing the role of bit player from the sidelines. The document contains a number of specific and proactive proposals. Chief among these are:
The creation of a Northern Ireland wide Enterprise Zone or local Enterprise Zones to direct support in areas with low private sector employment, with 100% rates relief for new starts for the first three years. I will come back to this point shortly.
A 100% rates relief for companies with expansion plans for a three-year period.
Slashing red tape that has cost this region