Wed 26th Mar 2014
Mar 14: A Budget that offers much for those ready to push for growth
The week that has passed since George Osborne opened his red box to unveil his fifth Budget has enabled us to appreciate fully the many positives for business in what he has proposed.
We take encouragement, in particular, from the proposals to double the amount of lending available to exporters to £3bn, the increase in investment allowance for business and the very welcome decision to create the first Enterprise Zone here, another important measure that we’ve been campaigning for over many years. The idea, in fact, was first proposed by the Northern Ireland Chamber.
We want to see the Zone around the University of Ulster campus in Coleraine established without delay, and it is vital that the Assembly assumes the main leadership role in this process. We must all pull together …and quickly…to ensure the speedy success of this pilot scheme.
Success will ensure that the initiative is extended to other regions of Northern Ireland in need of economic regeneration, an extension we all want to see. We are confident that the experiment in Coleraine will have a far-reaching impact on the local economy and the wider North West.
NI Chamber, of course, has been calling for greater support for businesses trading internationally including greater in-market support and additional support for potential and first time exporters over many years.
We hope that the measures that the Chancellor is proposing will help to stimulate exports and encourage many more companies, both large and small and across all industries here, to recognise that the way to grow faster is through engagement in international markets.
Scrapping the planned increase in fuel duty will also help industry. The Chancellor has also recognised that action is needed on energy costs capped Carbon Price Support. It remains to be seen how this will impact Northern Ireland where energy, of course, is more expensive here than in other parts of the UK.
We have also campaigned strongly about the negative message Air Passenger Duty (APD) is sending to investors and exporters. There was some progress on this in the Budget. However, we would like this to have gone much further, particularly given the impact of APD on local businesses and our developing tourism sector. We remain the only UK region facing direct competition from the Republic in areas such as APD and VAT.
The Budget may also lead to significant improvements in productivity and skills. The steps will contribute to the cultural changes that we believe are needed to lift productivity levels, strengthen our skills base and stimulate exports. Driving growth through significant increases in productivity and exports demands a comprehensive action plan that government will implement.
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry has shaped an action plan for Northern Ireland in association with our members and colleagues in Britain. We are keen to work with the Northern Ireland Executive in developing an imaginative strategy to accelerate exports and overall economic recovery.