The Northern Ireland economy has to operate globally, the President of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce has told an audience of top political and business representatives.
Mark Nodder was addressing up to 500 guests at the organisation’s annual banquet in Belfast City Hall who included Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott, and the Ministers for Enterprise, Justice, Health, Employment and Learning, and Social Development.
“Northern Ireland Plc has to go global,” said Mr Nodder.
“Above all, we urge the UK Government to create the conditions and the confidence for growth, along the lines recently suggested by Lord Heseltine, who recommended that business should be encouraged and assisted to provide the necessary leadership through organisations such as Chambers of Commerce. A realistic growth strategy has to be based on greater exports and a higher level of investment in areas such as technology, innovation, infrastructure and training.
“If the Government is reluctant to invest substantially in infrastructure, it should encourage the private sector, particularly financial institutions with cash, to pick up the reins...and as quickly as possible.
He added: “Here in Northern Ireland we have the talent, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the ability to punch above our weight. We have many ambitious and well-run companies in Northern Ireland which have the products and/or services to succeed abroad. The recovery will come, and we do not want to be left in the starting blocks.”
Mr Nodder said a radical overhaul of the way government in Northern Ireland functions was needed as was a re-imagining of the relationship between public and private sectors.
He also said he wanted to see a much deeper collaboration between business, schools, universities and government with the over-arching objective of ensuring Northern Ireland is fit for purpose, realising its potential, and ready to take advantage of recovery quickly.
“Business risk has to be encouraged and rewarded. The best way to do this is to reduce corporation tax, and provide companies with greater long-term financial incentive to invest in growth,” he added.
Also addressing guests Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said she wanted to see Northern Ireland become a UK region with a strong global outlook.
“Too many of our exporters have historically relied on near markets such as the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain. Whilst these are important, we need to extend our reach and take advantage of the many opportunities that exist across the globe.”
Guest speakers at the event were BBC Broadcaster John Humphrys and BT Chief Executive, Colm O’Neill.