Business leaders told North entering ‘new economic era’

Enterprise Minister says reduced taxes will lead to more jobs

The Parliament Buildings in the Stormont Estate in Belfast

The Parliament Buildings in the Stormont Estate in Belfast

 

Northern Ireland is entering a “new economic era” and it needs to get the word out that it offers more than just a good economic proposition, the North’s Enterprise Minister told business leaders in Belfast on Thursday.

In his first public engagement with the local business community since a political deal was agreed after 10 weeks of stalemate, Jonathan Bell said the North’s intended new rate of corporation tax could be a game changer.

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry president’s banquet in Titanic Belfast the Minister said: “Confirmation that Northern Ireland from April 2018 will have a rate of 12.5 per cent enables us to proactively promote and compete for new investment on a global scale helping to win investments and the creation of thousands of additional jobs across a range of sectors.

“Northern Ireland is entering a new economic era and we must now tell the world we offer the promise of more than a good economic proposition. We offer energy, enthusiasm and a determination to succeed.”

Mr Bell was keen to stress that the new rate of corporation tax will not just be for the benefit of foreign direct investors. He told business leaders there will also be significant benefits for local firms.

“With reduced taxes, local, profitable businesses will have additional finance to invest in future growth, in turn, creating more jobs and further investment in our economy,” he said.

There has been a universal welcome for confirmation of a lower rate of corporation tax among the business community.

But during the political vacuum that took hold over the last 10 weeks before a deal was struck and when Northern Ireland was at times without an Enterprise Minister, there has also been undisguised frustration among the business community about the role played by political leaders and the knock on effect on the economy.

Mr Bell will be under close scrutiny in the weeks ahead particularly with regards to how he deals with the fallout from recent large scale job losses which this month have hit a high of more than 1,050.

Earlier the trade union Unite warned that a further 37 jobs were under threat at Schlumberger, the American oil services company which is actively seeking redundancies at its Newtownabbey plant.

Jackie Pollock from Unite said the union is calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to help all workers who have lost their jobs.