NI Chamber Says Businesses Can Deliver Game Changing Private Sector Growth

The Northern Ireland Executive must embrace Corporation Tax powers so as business can deliver game changing private sector growth – that was the message delivered by the President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) last night.

NI Chamber President Kevin Kingston was addressing over 550 members of the local business community at the annual NI Chamber President’s Banquet which took place at Titanic Belfast.

Dignitaries present at the event included Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon; Chief Constable George Hamilton and the Ministers for Enterprise, Trade and Investment; Finance and Personnel; Employment and Learning and Regional Development.

[caption id="attachment_53210" align="alignleft" width="390"]Colm O’Neill, BT,  Ann McGregor, NI Chamber,  Minister Arlene Foster, Kevin Kingston, NI Chamber, and Jeremy Paxman, TV presenter. Colm O’Neill, BT, Ann McGregor, NI Chamber, Minister Arlene Foster, Kevin Kingston, NI Chamber, and Jeremy Paxman, TV presenter.[/caption]

Mr Kingston was also joined by award-winning journalist, author and television presenter Jeremy Paxman.

Speaking at the event, Mr Kingston said: “If the power to set and vary the rate of Corporation Tax is ultimately devolved, it will be the business community that will be charged with the responsibility of investing the additional capital released to employ more people, and create more wealth, and generate more tax.

He added: “The next few years are going to be difficult no matter what, but without the catalyst of Corporation Tax, we face a vicious circle of cuts and austerity – inevitably proving the point that we already know – that our private sector is simply too small to support the needs and aspirations of our people.”

“We will have to adapt to fill some of the gaps created by budgetary pressures. Added to this, is the size of the public sector, the challenge of welfare reform, the £800 million of austerity cuts and the investment needed to cut Corporation Tax, were we to get the power. Cuts are an inescapable reality in the short term, but shrinking our way out of the problem will not work in the long run – we have to grow our future. The crucial point when it comes to the Corporation Tax decision is that, unlike austerity cutbacks, it is an investment in the private sector to grow new opportunities and to put new jobs on the ground for all of our communities.”

“Whilst there is an acknowledgement that the power to set and vary Corporation Tax is not a silver bullet that will regenerate the Northern Ireland economy overnight, there is an acceptance that it could be transformational over time, delivering game changing private sector growth.”

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster was also a guest speaker at the event. Addressing the audience, the Minister said: “Being able to set our own Corporation Tax rate would allow us to control our own economic destiny by rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy in terms of growing our private sector much quicker than would otherwise be possible.

“A decision on whether we will be granted Corporation Tax powers is expected on or before the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 3 December. The NI Executive has made a strong case to have these powers devolved, and I remain optimistic that a positive decision will be reached.

“Significant progress has been made on how the regime would work in practice, including consideration of a number of technical issues to ensure legislative approval for the devolution of Corporation Tax can be secured early in 2015. Should we get a positive decision, while it will still be another 2-3 years before the devolved powers can be implemented, the NI Executive would seek to make an early announcement on any rate cut to provide certainty to businesses. This would also allow Invest NI to start attracting investment by promoting the lower tax rate to foreign investors at the earliest opportunity.”

Colm O’Neill, Chief Executive Officer at BT Northern Ireland, the event sponsor, also spoke at the dinner. Mr O’Neill said: “As official communications partner we are delighted to support tonight’s banquet in recognition and celebration of the Chamber’s achievements in representing the interests of the business community here in Northern Ireland. We all have a responsibility to drive economic sustainability across the region and in the past year we have continued to invest heavily in our next generation network and we remain ahead of major European countries with 91 per cent availability.

“A great communications infrastructure is critical to economic sustainability and inward investment, but adoption of the technology is essential to drive growth. We would actively encourage those businesses who can avail of these improved broadband services to get connected and experience the benefits that transformational technology brings.”

Guest speaker, Jeremy Paxman, also provided the audience with a number of reflections and opinions on Northern Ireland where he was based as a reporter covering the Troubles in the 1970’s. He also spoke about the dramatic changes to the political and physical landscape since he left Northern Ireland after living there for three years.

The NI Chamber President’s Banquet was supported by BT, Carson McDowell, 4c Executive Search and the Keys Group.