The Finance Minister has urged local businesses to take “bold steps” in order to take investment decisions forward and access finance for the good of the economy
Sammy Wilson made the plea after he and the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster concluded a series of meetings with banks in the Province.
The Finance Minister said that banking and access to finance remain strategically important to the Northern Ireland economy.
He said: “It is imperative that our businesses have the finance they need made available so they can continue to trade and grow. The Enterprise Minister and I have met with all of our local banks and although there are still issues to be faced I believe significant progress has been made.
“All of our banks have indicated they have money to lend to good projects; however they have suggested that a lack of demand is a particular problem. I have no doubt that there is a lack of confidence given the economic climate but our economic recovery depends on businesses taking bold steps to progress investment projects or business opportunities they have. Many are doing this, but we also need those that are potentially holding back to do likewise.”
Mr Wilson said he recognised that the cost and conditions attached to credit had placed constraints on viable local firms. He said that while he had been pressing the banks on this, the fact remained that costs would unfortunately be higher than pre-financial crisis and that more scrutiny would be required – though achieving the right balance was crucial.
He added: “The DETI Minister and I will continue to work with and to press the banks and the Government to take all steps necessary to ensure our banking system is stable, secure and is making lending available at affordable terms. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has also offered to assist where possible and we will shortly be meeting with her on this.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said that for many smaller local businesses in particular, the greatest challenge they currently faced was access to affordable finance to help them survive and prosper.
“Our meetings with the banks have provided the opportunity to emphasise the importance of supporting business development and growth. During the discussions we were also able to explore what more can be done, by both the banking sector and Government, to assist our local businesses in the current economic climate. This will include the ongoing development of complementary Access to Finance products by Invest Northern Ireland,” she added.
In recent months, the Ministers have met with representatives from the Ulster Bank, Danske Bank, Bank of Ireland, First Trust, HSBC, Santander and Barclays Bank.