Ross Boyd, the founder of Belfast-based chartered accountancy, RBCA, has highlighted that the NI Executive has been reestablished at a time that offers great promise, with the economic climate settling. Interest rates have once again held at 5.25 per cent, and inflation is set to fall steadily as a result. But Ross warns that the focus needs to be on attracting long-term growth, something he says will only happen if Government can portray an image of stability to foreign investors.
Ross explains, “The interest rates freeze is an important step in the journey towards defrosting the Northern Ireland economy – and the timing of our reestablished Executive couldn’t be better with an improved economic outlook offering significant opportunity for the region’s growth. However, it’s crucial our leaders prioritise our potential by playing the long-game and setting realistic goals to build on Northern Ireland’s reputation as a place that is investable.
“Continued foreign direct investment will unlock an opportunity to resolve the economic issues facing the region. US Ambassador to the UK, Jane Hartley, and Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs, Joe Kennedy, recognise that Northern Ireland has the skilled workforce and the infrastructure needed to attract the attention of CEOs, but our lack of a sitting government has held us back. These lost years of growth now need to be redeemed, and the only way we’ll have a chance of doing that is by investing in stability and avoiding any prolonged ‘investophobia’.
“Furthermore, businesses should be supported by the proposed fast-tracking of a lower corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland. This would give us a greater competitive edge to compete with the Republic, which is home to more than 700 US companies, thanks at large to its 12.5 per cent rate.”
However, Ross also addresses that the issue of growth is not restricted to Northern Ireland, and the upcoming general election should also be positioned as an opportunity for change.
He says, “The UK is the sixth-largest economy in the world, but our performance over the last number of years leaves a lot to be desired. The upcoming election offers an opportunity to do things differently, regardless of who comes out on top. Yes, the purse strings are tight, but that’s all the more reason to do things differently. The question any new Government needs to answer is – how do we deliver growth without investment? And one answer, in short, is to be honest and address at a detailed level the value for money we are getting from our spending. One look at our crumbling NHS and we can see that our ongoing obsession with efficiency has, ironically, come at the expense of efficient provision across key services for taxpayers. It’s time to rethink how we allocate resource across the public sector and encourage transformation by leaning into technology and innovation, and new ways of working, to improve productivity.
“We finally have a little hope on the horizon. And whilst the political climate remains delicate, the business community across Northern Ireland can start to feel more positive, more confident than we have been able to previously, provided this new dawn awakens a new approach from leadership.”