The Economic Advisory Group met in Invest NI headquarters today to continue their important analysis into the issues affecting Northern Ireland businesses accessing finance in the current economic climate.

EAG Chair Kate Barker stated, “Access to Finance remains one of the most important issues for business at this time. This is a strong message which we have received from the DETI Minister and economic stakeholders. Our analysis will detail the funds, programmes and support available to businesses while trying to identify gaps and make recommendations which may improve the situation.”

As part of the evidence gathering exercise the EAG has and will continue to consult with relevant agencies and businesses in order to gauge first-hand the extent of the issues which exist and how they might be addressed. Kate Barker said, “We will continue developing our evidence-base employing a particular emphasis on quantitative measures to ensure we provide the Minister with a fresh, comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the current situation.”

“We had a particularly useful engagement with CBI Northern Ireland today and they informed the Group of the findings which they gathered from their recent research into this area.”
The EAG also discussed the latest position between the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government in relation to the devolution of Corporation Tax powers to the region. Chair Kate Barker said, “We remain of the view that the powers to vary corporation tax in Northern Ireland would stimulate a larger and more export focussed private sector.”

“It is, however, disappointing that progress on this important issue has not been made as quickly as it should have been. At our meeting today, which included representation from the CBI on this issue, the Group stated our view that a deal to introduce these powers should be made in the context of the principles set out in the HMT consultation document of March 2011. Particularly, that the NI Executive should absorb the benefits as well as the costs of the measure, inclusive of related secondround tax yields.”

The EAG also discussed their on-going analysis into the level of competitiveness in the Northern Ireland economy which will detail where the region sits internationally in terms of economic competiveness.

Kate Barker commented: “The detailed EAG work into the assessment of the competitiveness of the Northern Ireland economy continues on schedule. The Group will be providing the DETI Minister with our indepth results in the autumn.”