Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has met with political representatives in the North West to set out the key investment and planning priorities for the region, as well as the measures required in the upcoming budget to support the region’s future growth.
Ibec North West Regional Director Terry MacNamara said, “Business will play a critical role in the future economic growth of the region. Connectivity, skills development and infrastructure provision must be prioritised, now more than ever, to mitigate the impact of Brexit on the region and strengthen our competitive position. It is imperative that business takes the opportunity to liaise with policymakers in setting priorities that support business and drive development of the region. Meeting with political representatives in the North West gives the business community a platform to do that and help bring the region to a new phase of growth and prosperity.
“Successful businesses are central to the North West’s economic prospects and the creation of a thriving regional economy. However, a prosperous business community is dependent on a strong infrastructure network. Every business in the region would welcome greater investment in our road network. The current situation is having a direct effect on business productivity and growth. One of the main challenges for the region is peripherality, with poor accessibility placing the region at a distinct disadvantage in terms of attracting Foreign Direct Investment and economic development. Tourism and leisure remains one of the big potential growth areas for the region due to the North West’s natural beauty. However, the growth of inbound tourism to the region relies heavily on accessibility.
“Investment in infrastructure is necessary to support job creation and develop the region's economy. It is a key concern for businesses in the region. Businesses are being held back in their efforts to improve productivity because of the lack of quality infrastructure. Insufficient broadband connectivity is a huge barrier to growth in the region and is putting local businesses at a significant disadvantage.
"Furthermore, it is vital we take decisive steps in Budget 2018 to offset the risks of Brexit. In order to support businesses, a multi-annual framework for funding Brexit mitigation should be put in place, targeted at supporting innovation, market diversification, upskilling and capital expenditure in equipment and machinery.
“We welcome the recent Government decision to reverse its debt reduction strategy of 45% of GDP, to allow for more capital investment. But the Government can, and must, do even more to implement long-term planning and place a sharper focus on increased infrastructure and education investment with the Exchequer funds now available. Better use must also be made of public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other non-Exchequer finance, such as from the European Investment Bank. The path towards this should begin with Budget 2018.
"Ibec is calling on Government to give the region's investment needs the high priority they deserve to secure the future economic performance of the North West. Efficient delivery will be key and must be led by a comprehensive National Planning Framework. With the right investment decisions, the North West region can play a significant role in addressing economic and societal imbalances.”