Northern Ireland should strive to become an “open, innovate, dynamic, export driven” economy such as Singapore, Sweden or Finland in the search for growth and prosperity Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has claimed.
In his first major speech as Minister, he set out his vision for transforming the province into a globally competitive economy, expressing his unabashed faith in the province and its possinbilites.
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“I am, and always have been, immensely proud of Northern Ireland. Even when many inside Northern Ireland, and some from outside, tried to tell us that we didn’t have much to be proud of,” he told the an audience of over 100 businesses at a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry event at Allstate in Belfast.
“But we can be better still. I don’t just want us to be better. I want us to be one of the best. This isn’t a race against ourselves we’re engaged in. It’s a contest with the whole of the world.”
“My number one aim as Minister for the Economy is to transform Northern Ireland into a globally competitive economy. I want us to develop an economy that we are proud of and that is the envy of others.
Adding that the province had come a long way since the days of 15% unemployment stood or when it was “the last place” to go on holiday, Mr Hamilton said Northern Ireland could be an economic powerhouse once again.
“It won’t be because of our shipyards or our linen mills or our ropeworks. But it can because of our ICT, advanced engineering and agri-food businesses.
In terms of clout and scale there was no comparison with the economies of Germany or the United States or Japan, he said.
“But why shouldn’t we seek to imitate smaller states like States who habitually inhabit spots in the top ten of international rankings as innovative, competitive economies and good places to do business.”
As such he said he had set up an overview of Northern Ireland’s competitiveness against a tailored group of small, advanced economies like Singapore, New Zealand, Finland, Ireland and Estonia as part of ongoing work on refreshing the Economic Strategy.
“We can judge success on being better than we wer, or we can, as I believe we should, measure our progress against the best.
“That will require a continuation and indeed an acceleration of the economic reforms the Executive have been pursuing.
“Northern Ireland’s competitiveness is improving but in many respects the important question is are we forging ahead of, keeping pace with or falling behind our global competitors.”