Tue 8th Jan 2019
January 2019: 2019 must bring clarity to business…
John Healy, President, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
I am delighted to take on the role of NI Chamber President during what is one of the most economically sensitive times in our recent history.
2018 has been a year of many challenges for the local business community, with the continuing absence of the NI Executive and the ever more ominous threat of Brexit. The backstop, re-elections, votes of confidence (or lack of) were among the words making their way across news sources in the UK, and even globally. And Northern Ireland was, and still is, centre stage.
Many of our members tell us that they are entering 2019 having not been able to plan ahead for the year due to the ongoing political uncertainty at Westminster. It is now time to put political games to bed. As a business organisation we want to see an outcome that’s best for businesses, for consumers, for the economy and for the future stability of Northern Ireland. Firms are still in the dark as to what trading conditions they will face. Neither the country nor businesses are prepared for a no deal Brexit, so parliamentarians on all sides must redouble efforts to ensure that we don’t face this scenario by default.
Whilst Brexit dominates the political and economic climate, it is important to also remember that there are a number of issues within our control that we could address via an Executive. The priority must be to get an Executive back as soon as possible to implement an Economic Strategy and progress a number of key projects that are currently being held up in their absence.
These include the much needed Belfast Transport Hub; the roll out of super-fast broadband and the North South Interconnector to name a few. We cannot go another few months without these key decisions being made – another year is unthinkable.
It is important to highlight that despite these key challenges, we have much to celebrate as a business community as we enter a new year. For example the collaboration and positive attitude of our councils, educational institutions, and businesses has led to the approval of the £1billion Belfast Region City Deal, which is poised to benefit our economy massively in the coming years. Hopefully, 2019 will bring another one in the North West region.
It is now important that we maintain this positive outlook over the next twelve months. We have a wealth of innovative and successful businesses, an exceptional higher education sector and a resilient and forward-thinking workforce. We must make it our priority to answer our economy’s demands for skilled workers and support those businesses who need our expertise and guidance in this ever more global and increasingly changeable world.
At a time when the Chamber of Commerce movement has never been more important, I look forward to working with NI Chamber Chief Executive Ann McGregor, Vice-President Ian Henry and the Board, Council and Executive team at NI Chamber over the next 12 months to ensure that our members are provided with the very best support to enable them to grow their businesses.