The First Minister the Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA presented a positive pitch for the local economy during an address to business leaders at Stormont tonight.
The message was robust and forthright as both men sought to banish the prevailing blues encouraged by the recession. They were addressing the annual President’s dinner of the Northern Ireland Assembly Business Trust and in his remarks Mr Robinson put the focus very firmly on our business success: “The Executive is working with business to develop policies to help grow our economy. The significant reduction in the capital budget from Westminster and the withdrawal by the Republic of Ireland of the greater part of its support for the A5 road scheme left us with many challenges, but last week’s capital announcement of £583million for roads and hospitals shows that we are determined to press ahead with our ambitious proposals.
“The feedback we have received on the draft Programme for Government has been encouraging. There is clear recognition that it balances the need to grow the economy while addressing social need. This is an essential combination that will help to put Northern Ireland in a better strategic position for the future.”
Mr Robinson pointed out that while the Executive was tackling the economy in every way that it could, news headlines could sometimes impact adversely.
He said: “The reality is that too often, the media are the purveyors of the gloom and doom. In turn despondency becomes a self fulfilling prophesy, because people who are unsure of the future, or have been spooked about it, become unwilling to spend and businesses lose interest in the potential to invest.
“We are absolutely committed to bringing more and better jobs to Northern Ireland. In the coming months we will travel to India and China to seek to develop trading links and encourage investment. We hope that in time we can replicate the success we have achieved in the US in these new markets.”
The deputy First Minister took up the theme of maximising the local economy’s exporting potential: “We are inspired by the entrepreneurial attitude of our local private sector. There is an acknowledgement that a strong and vibrant private sector, with capability to trade worldwide, is the key to assisting economic recovery and future growth.
"We appeal to those representing local businesses tonight to utilise the invaluable resources offered by Invest NI in developing your export potential.
“The Executive is in a position where we have a range of policies and initiatives in place which can and will make a difference and it is now up to us all to take the next step.
"We have every intention of doing so.”
What’s good about our local economy:
- Unemployment is still too high in Northern Ireland, but it remains the lowest of any region in the UK and much lower than the Republic of Ireland or EU average.
- Northern Ireland consistently outperforms other UK regions in national exams at age 16 and 18.
- At £12.4billion, even with exports to the Republic of Ireland falling, the value of manufactured goods sold abroad by Northern Ireland recovered to virtually their pre-recession level and sales to Great Britain achieved a new record.
- Belfast has the third highest levels of GVA in the UK, behind only Edinburgh and London.
- R&D, which is crucial to the development of our economy, increased by 6% last year to £344million.
- Belfast is the second most attractive city in the UK after London for Foreign Direct Investment, particularly in technology and financial services.
- In the last three years Northern Ireland (with a population share of only 2.8%) has won 7% of all Foreign Direct Investment attracted to the UK.
- Belfast is now among the world’s Top 10 cities for financial technology investments ahead of Dublin, Glasgow, Toronto and Bangalore.
- Nearly two thirds of investors here have ploughed additional capital into Northern Ireland. These companies include Allstate, Cybersource, Citi, Fujitsu and HBO.
- A total of 35% of all computer read/write heads are made at Seagate Technology in the UK’s largest nanotechnology site.
- Randox Laboratories sells to 130 countries around the world.
- Heartsine in Belfast makes portable defibrillators as featured on ‘ER’ and in the emergency medical kit at the White House.
- BE Aerospace in Kilkeel makes 30% of the worlds Business Class seats.
- A total of 40% of the world’s mobile stone crushing and gravel screening equipment is made in Northern Ireland.
- Wrightbus sells its new ‘Streetcar’ to Las Vegas and Hong Kong and has also designed London’s latest ‘Routemaster’.
- 2012 will be an epic year for tourism in Northern Ireland with the opening of The MAC, the Titanic Signature Project, the new Visitor Centre at the Giant’s Causeway and the return of the Irish Open Golf Tournament.