Tue 2nd Jun 2015
June 15: Committed to growing the economy
After what feels like a whirlwind year, my 12 month term as President of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry is coming to an end. It is a role which I have been immensely proud to hold and I wish in-coming President Stephen McCully every success in his term in office.
So how far has Northern Ireland come in the last 12 months? A year ago, the prospect of achieving the devolution of Corporation Tax powers was still a mere ambition and the pessimists among the business community and elsewhere would not have been confident that it would ever be within our grasp. Yet we are now at the stage where the legislation is in place, and the onus is firmly on our own local politicians to deliver. That is a significant achievement and is a tribute to the commitment and energy of NI Chamber and our colleagues throughout the business community.
Yet that momentum, goodwill and optimism has now been dampened by the stalled roll out of the Stormont House Agreement, of which Corporation Tax is such a crucial element. Last week’s failure to agree and pass the welfare reform legislation in the Assembly, whatever the political rights or wrongs, puts all elements of the pre-Christmas deal in real jeopardy. The prospect of coming so close to implementing a reduced rate of Corporation Tax without actually achieving that ultimate prize is not only frustrating but also very damaging. If Corporation Tax is not reduced now, the opportunity may not come our way again. The future of our economy and the potential to create much needed jobs right across Northern Ireland is too important to be sacrificed in the name of political stalling and grandstanding.
But NI Chamber has a positive and optimistic outlook and I do not want to conclude on a low note. Much has been achieved: more companies are exporting; there is increased optimism about future orders and future recruitment; significant streamlining of local Government has been achieved and yes – the ingredients are in place for a sustained economic recovery. NI Chamber will continue to play its part in working with our local businesses. Let’s hope others step up to the mark as well.