Invest NI right to target South Belfast?

Invest NI has come under fire from Sinn Fein and the SDLP, who say Invest NI’s figures show that they intend to site nearly 30% of all its planned investment for this cycle in south Belfast, more than three times the combined investment for the seven more impoverished constituencies west of the Bann. They have been joined by the Federation of Small Businesses who have called for a meeting to discuss the “serious imbalances”.

Invest NI have responded by saying assistance provided to clients within NTSN (New Targeting Social Needs) areas represented 57% of the total value of offers made during 2003-04.

Putting aside which side is telling the truth about the investment figures for a moment, is it the job of a development agency “to counter imbalances in the economy and direct development to where its social impact can be greatest”, as SDLP Assembly member Eugene McMenamin claims or is it more important, especially with the strong competition for Foreign Direct Investment, for Northern Ireland to get investment into the areas most attractive for business (infrastructure, stability, educated workforce etc.) rather than losing it altogether?

  • John McIlveen

    That’s a crazy suggestion! The basiline for any decision should be as the organisations aims suggest. We shouldn’t have delusions of grandure or place business in the wrong place just because we could LOSE it! If that’s the case then maybe we’re goin after the wrong type of investment. Areas such as North Belfast and some of the less-well-off rural areas could be doing with a big lift and it should be Invest NI’s responsibility to ‘correct the imbalances’

  • Dessertspoon

    This is the same old whinge people have about the South East of England. The fact of the matter is most companies want to be located in ornear to the capital, travel links are better, infrastructure is better,there is a prestige to being there. The same probably applies to many companies wanting to set up in Belfast. Invest NI are there to attract business to NI not conscript it. That said they should be doing their best to sell other parts of the country too. Bottom line is if you want them to come you have to meet their criteria. May not be fair but life isn’t fair.

  • aquifer

    Urbanisation is the EU development trend and it would be mad to try and buck it. Belfast is just about cutting it as a european urban fragment and needs to attract private investment to stay vital, especially by attracting brain work. In spatial terms, the rest of NI is not very far from Greater Belfast and could be providing services to it. I’m amazed that Invest NI can attract any inward investment at all with corporation tax at a low 20% or so down the road in Dublin. A good strategy may be to develop a lot of R&D activity, where the companies don’t make money in the early stages, (and therefore don’t pay much tax at the higher UK rate), but will certainly spend it, on salaries and services that can boost employment throughout NI and ROI.

    Sometimes it it best to spend public money on public facilities, like superfast commuter trains to bring rural people to the urban jobs, and easyjet tourists to rural areas.

    But such capital projects would divert resources from the public sector salary budget, another matter entirely.

  • Alan

    One of the big problems that have to be faced is that people have to travel to work, but some of the most deprived are actually afraid to do that.

    I did some work with unemployed people on periperal estates in Belfast in the late 90’s. One of the biggest problems was getting people to travel to work. There was a huge self esteem issue. People leaving school with no qualifications and no hope set up a life for themselves that was extremely local, many of the men would not even head into the city centre. Instead, their lives revolved around the local pub and bookies. They only occasionally admitted that they were afraid to travel.

    That needs dealt with, people need support and often prodding to make a change. One thing we cannot do, however, is pander to local needs all the time.

    Jobs in Belfast are jobs for people from Belfast and a much wider area. Dropping industry in South Belfast is as likely to employ people from Ballymena or Newry as Sandy Row.

    There seems from the figures to be an argument for more targetted support in southern border areas (Derry and Tyrone appear to do quite well).

  • yankinulster

    This Slugger story could use a mild correction: Sinn Fein and the SDLP are attacking the past; Invest NI don’t target all their money by geography, but by the merits of each project. As the majority of INI’s pot of money will go to existing business, who have already set up shop more in urban areas, quelle surprise that urban areas like South Belfast benefit so well.

    Efforts to assist nTSN areas will concentrate on inward investment and encouraging local start-ups. It’s but a portion of the INI budget.

    So we’re back to the ‘lead a horse to water’ problem. Here I tend to agree with [Dessertspoon] and [aquifer].