The Executive must do all it can to support local entrepreneurship, innovation and tourism to stimulate the North’s economic growth.
That was the message from the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness as he addressed the Causeway Chamber of Commerce dinner in Portrush this evening.
The deputy First Minister said: “Chamber of Commerce events like this in Portrush tonight are important if we are to grow the economy, create employment and ensure our young people have the skills they require and which the marketplace needs.
“We need to listen to, and learn from, those of you who are at the coal face of the economy. And when we do that, when we all work together, things get done.
“This Executive has created more than 40,000 jobs, spent over £90million a week delivering the range of health and social care services across the north, stopped the introduction of water charges, kept our rates bill lower than the rest of the UK, kept prescriptions free for everyone and protected free domiciliary care.
“In addition, we have supported our students with tuition fees for local students at Queen’s and Ulster University which are a third lower than those studying in England. We have stopped the introduction of the bedroom tax, unlike the rest of the UK, prevented unmitigated welfare cuts through agreeing a range of welfare changes to continue to support the most vulnerable across society, and provided free travel for pensioners.”
The Minister added: “We will continue to work with you to create the conditions for businesses to thrive and people to have jobs which enable them to provide for their families. Across this Programme for Government Invest NI has helped leverage £66million of investment in the Causeway Coast and Glens Council area benefitting the local economy and supported projects which promoted over 1,206 new jobs. The Fresh Start Agreement included a commitment to reduce the Corporation Tax rate to 12.5% from April 2018 which, along with other key drivers of our Economic Strategy, has the potential to propel the local economy forward.
“If ever we needed a reminder though of how important it is to retain existing jobs as well as attract new jobs the devastating news at Bombardier has done just that. While the company has made it clear their decision is as a result of inescapable global economic factors, the impact is very real for those affected, and for the wider economy.”
Commenting on the importance of tourism in the Causeway Coast and Glens Area Martin McGuinness said: “Tourism is a big part of the local success story with more than 12% local employment in the tourism industry, and iconic attractions such as the Giants Causeway. Hosting major golf events plays a key role in realising our ambitious plans to grow tourism to a £1billion industry by 2020. The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019 represents a massive opportunity, with 200,000 spectators expected and a potential economic return of £70million.
“For our part the Executive must make sure we have the necessary infrastructure in place not just for tourism but for businesses and people making journeys regardless of whether for work or pleasure. The five mile long A26 Frosses dualling scheme between Glarryford and the A44 Drones Road junction on which construction got underway last April represents a £55million investment by the Executive. Work is progressing well with approximately 40% of the works completed. Turning to rail, phase 1 of the Coleraine to Derry upgrade was completed in March 2013 at a cost of £26.7million and work to upgrade the rail track between Derry and Coleraine is currently underway involving the full re-signalling of the line and the addition of a passing loop which is expected to cost £46million and will be substantially completed by the end of 2016.
“The Causeway Coast and Glens area has played its part in this ongoing story of recovery and I commend the efforts of the Chamber and the local Council to promote entrepreneurship and business confidence. I look forward to continuing to work with you all for the benefit of everyone in society.”