Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Doug Beattie addressed an audience of businesspeople today (Friday), where he discussed the party’s election manifesto, including its plans for jobs and the economy.
He was speaking at an event hosted by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), part of a ‘5 Leaders; 5 Days’ pre-election series delivered in partnership with SSE Airtricity.
Speaking in the Europa Hotel, Mr Beattie said: “To focus on the people, we need to generate wealth. I want a prosperity agenda and a wellbeing agenda for our people. I want us to generate the wealth for our young people to have jobs. And when they have jobs, they’ll pay the taxes and we’ll bring in our own revenue. I want our young people to go to bed at night with a sense of fulfillment. I want them to feel that they are part of the contribution to the economy, here in Northern Ireland. That’s what we are striving to achieve here. That’s why everything focuses back on the economy.”
He discussed the need for a multi-year budget saying, “Nobody can develop a strategy for the long-term if we are only working on a year-on-year budget. There must be a multi-year budget. It is not a political argument, it is an economic argument.”
And on the issue of skills he commented: “The up-skilling and re-skilling of our people is incredibly important. We are committed to setting up a Northern Ireland jobs skills fund, similar to SDS in Scotland or Skillnet in the Republic of Ireland.”
NI Chamber’s Vice-President, Gillian McAuley also spoke, stressing that the incoming Executive should focus on areas of strategic importance including promoting Northern Ireland internationally, skilling up for a green and digital future and speeding up planning decisions, saying:
“To achieve any of this successfully, we need to see all of our political representatives around the Executive table, focusing on creating the conditions for a flourishing private sector.
“At NI Chamber, we believe that Northern Ireland is a unique place and that our focus should be on what makes us a uniquely brilliant place to work, live and do business. As a region, we enjoy unrivalled access to both the EU and UK markets, creating opportunities for exports, FDI and international collaboration. We have a youthful, highly skilled workforce with high levels of wellbeing in a cost competitive location, which is recovering rapidly from the pandemic. By working collaboratively, we have a tangible opportunity to lead in the innovation and operation of digital and green technologies as we aim for net zero 2050 – or earlier.
“As we gather this morning, Northern Ireland has a window of opportunity to excel in a number of spaces. The next set of Ministers and MLAs must get to work quickly, put party politics aside and deliver the certainty and stability that businesses, their employees and everyone in Northern Ireland deserves.”
Stuart Hobbs, Director of Energy Services, SSE Airtricity added:
“For businesses focused on sustainability, the passing of a Climate Bill in the Assembly in recent weeks was a landmark moment. The setting of a net zero target for 2050 for Northern Ireland is to be strongly welcomed. Targets like these that set clear trajectories for businesses like SSE Airtricity and others to accelerate investment.
“The recent energy market volatility we have witnessed further emphasises the need to decarbonise our society, by transitioning to renewable energy that we can generate here in Northern Ireland, and using less energy overall via the implementation of energy efficiency measures. By taking these steps, we will not only deliver a sustainable energy system but will also drive valuable investment in training so that people can develop the skills we will need in emerging low carbon technologies. These steps provide opportunities for homes, businesses and for individual people and will help create a more sustainable future for all.”