The Economic Advisory Group published their annual report today, on the day representatives from the Group provided evidence to the Enterprise, Trade and Investment (ETI) Committee at Stormont.

The Economic Advisory Group published their annual report on the day representatives from the Group provided evidence to the Enterprise, Trade and Investment (ETI) Committee at Stormont. EAG representatives Kate Barker CBE (Chair) and Patricia O’Hagan MBE appeared to give evidence to the Committee following the recent publication of the Group’s review of access to finance for NI businesses.

In relation to the Group’s review of access to finance, EAG Chair Kate Barker stated, “I welcome the opportunity to discuss our Access to Finance Report with the ETI Committee here in Stormont. Our analysis is informed by a detailed survey of small and medium-sized enterprises; extensive stakeholder engagement
with banks, businesses and government; and builds upon the significant work that has been conducted in this area by others.”

“Of course there remains a significant degree of frustration from businessover what is perceived by many businesses to be an unwillingness of banks to lend, or to lend at reasonable rates. However, our EAG research shows that the market for finance is complex and that issues exist on both the demand and supply side.”

“Clearly both businesses and banks are having to adapt to a new lending environment and this is causing significant challenges locally and indeed nationally. However, the EAG believe more can be done to improve the situation and our recommendations are focussed on achieving this aim.”

“I am aware that Minister Foster and her DFP counterpart Minister Wilson have been meeting with banks this week to encourage participation in the implementation of the EAG’s recommendations. I hope this process will bear fruit. I also believe, following our discussions today, that the ETI Committee is
understanding of the challenges faced by both businesses and banks and supportive of the EAG report and its recommendations. Of particular note from our discussions was the need to communicate the non-bank finance options available to local businesses and from the banks’ side, the need to ensure a greater appreciation of the differing models of NI businesses seeking funding.”

Turning her attention to the Group’s Annual Report, the EAG Chair continued, “As detailed in our annual report, the EAG has enjoyed a busy period recently. In addition to our work on access to finance the Group has substantively progressed work on assessing Northern Ireland’s competitiveness; responding to the Executive’s suite of strategy documents; and continuing to push for the affordable devolvement of corporation tax powers to the Northern Ireland Executive.”

The EAG Chair finished by saying, “Our Annual Report highlights the current economic context within which Northern Ireland is operating. While signs of stability are appearing, it is also clear that emphasis on the momentum of economic policies must be maintained to improve performance going forward.”

The EAG published its Annual Report on its website today detailing the work completed by the Group over the last period in addition to setting out their direction for future work.