13 July 2023
A major new economic report, launched in Dublin today, chronicles the major positive change in the Northern Ireland economy post-Good Friday Agreement and seeks to provide a blueprint for driving growth and prosperity in Northern Ireland over the next 10 years.
Trade NI, an alliance of three of Northern Ireland’s largest trade bodies – Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing Northern Ireland, and Retail Northern Ireland – launched the report at a reception in Iveagh House hosted by Micheál Martin, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs. A large delegation of Northern Ireland business leaders will be attending the reception.
The report entitled, ‘A Region Transformed and Creating Prosperity for All. Northern Ireland – The Prosperity Dividend,’ was carried out by BDO NI on behalf of Trade NI. It calls for a planned programme based on four priorities areas:
- Deliver a clear economic strategy for NI
- Reduce the regulatory burden on business
- Increase the productivity of the NI workforce
- Increase the skills base of its workforce.
A key focus will be on increasing investment in the private sector to reduce the dependence on the public sector in Northern Ireland which stood at 27%, above the UK average of 18%. Northern Ireland currently has over 1,200 foreign-owned companies currently with a presence in Northern Ireland, with over 70% planning to make further investments.
Recommendations in the major economic paper include:
- Focus on people: initiatives to attract skilled workers; investment in universities and higher education to prevent ‘brain drain’ from the region; development of academies to help transfer personnel from the public to the private sector; and skills tax incentives for business.
- Trading: capitalise on Northern Ireland’s unique trading position vis a vis the UK and EU markets provided by the Windsor Framework.
- Funding: investment in infrastructure projects to bolster key economic locations as conduits for foreign direct investment; enhanced air connectivity and abolition of air passenger duty.
- Green economy: Develop green opportunities including push for 80% target for renewable energy by 2030.
- Planning: overhaul the planning process which is currently deemed to be a major impediment to economic growth and progress in the region.
- Innovation hubs: develop through existing initiatives such as the 10X Strategy.
- Urban regeneration: establish multifunction hubs incorporating business, libraries, community services, health and education, and sports.
- New business forum: Establish a new forum from Government, trade bodies, business, finance and environment.
- Marketing: promote Northern Ireland in its true light as a great place to live and work.
Commenting in a joint statement, the Chief Executives of Trade NI, Glyn Roberts (Retail NI), Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster) and Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI), said:
“This is a blueprint for economic growth and prosperity for Northern Ireland. Over the last 25 years, Northern Ireland has enjoyed the benefits of a peace dividend. Over the next 10 years, the focus should be a prosperity dividend. Our vision is for Northern Ireland to become the very best place in these islands to locate, start and scale up a business.
“Northern Ireland has vast untapped potential. We have demographics on our side with approximately 40% of our population under the age of 40. We have a skilled workforce, a steady pipeline of talent from our higher and further education institutions, dual market access to the UK and the EU, and emerging clusters in new industries like tech, cybersecurity, health and life sciences. But there is so much more we can achieve if we get the fundamental building blocks in place.
“We must make progress on ensuring political stability at Stormont, fixing our planning system to facilitate speedier construction of major capital infrastructure and economic projects, investing in our educational institutions to ensure our workforce of the future has the right skills and competencies, capitalising on our dual market access, benefiting from the all-island potential, and reforming our public sector to remove our dependence on it.
“Today is an historic day when we bring a significant Northern Ireland trade mission to Dublin to deliver a positive message about Northern Ireland’s bright prospects to potential investors and key decision-makers from the Government, the Oireachtas, business and the diplomatic community. We must ensure that the prosperity promised by the Good Friday Agreement becomes a reality in the coming years.”
Commenting, Micheál Martin, Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, said:
“In the years since the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland has been transformed into a leading place to live, to visit, and to do business. The business community has been central to bringing about this transformation, driving economic growth and creating jobs for communities across Northern Ireland.
“This report is an important contribution to our understanding of the economy in Northern Ireland, setting out an ambitious economic vision for the years ahead. It sets out what needs to be done if Northern Ireland is to maximise the economic dividend of the peace, as well the unique opportunity provided by dual access to both the UK market and the EU’s single market for goods.
“I welcome the spotlight it contains on the important and growing North South dimensions of trade and business on this island, and how the report challenges us about what we can do together to secure a better and more prosperous future for Northern Ireland.”
Commenting, Brian Murphy, BDO NI Managing Partner, said:
“Northern Ireland has been on a transformative journey over the last 25 years. We have witnessed the expansion of new sectors such as renewable energy, legal services, film and television and we believe even better days lie ahead.
“There is a real belief within the business community that NI can become an economic powerhouse, where business, innovation, and creativity flourish. Also, given our unique position as a bridge between the EU and GB, it is critical that we look to the opportunities this affords us to grow our economy in a spirit of co-operation across the island.
“The significant Irish Government support for initiatives such as the Shared Island Fund is also so important in helping us achieve our potential in Northern Ireland. Working together with all our partners will be a key part in helping us transform the economy for the benefit of everyone.”