Businesses want action not the Assembly

The inaugural Northern Ireland Business Monitor 2004-2005 has found that a whopping 77% of the 2,000 businesses surveyed felt that the Assembly suspension has had no effect on them. Only 16% said the suspension made their situation worse.

However, the report suggests that “many businesses do not see local politicians as being adequately supportive of local businesses”.”The absence of the Assembly was significant in making prospects worse
for the farming businesses (28%) and construction (23%). All the other sectors eported adverse impacts on less than
18% of the respondents. Reciprocally, in these other sectors over 75% said the suspension made no difference.”

One trend revealed by the four surveys is that regard for the supportiveness of local politicians seems to be falling.

“In the first quarter of 2005, 25% of local politicians were credited with being supportive in helping local business. This contrasted with 29% in the Spring quarter of 2004. In contrast, the
proportion regarded as unsupportive rose from 38% in early 2004 to 41%
earlier this year.
49% of farm business executives see a supportive role from local
politicians while the next highest perception of support comes from the providers of professional services: 35%. All the other
sectors attract less than 30% making this assessment.

“The most critical views of the unsupportive relationship with local
politicians came from manufacturers (45%), distribution (39%), leisure services (39%) and construction (37%).”

While praising the region’s broadband access, the firms surveyed said the introduction of a corporate tax regime which “levels the playing field” would be the greatest incentive to enterprise growth.
A majority support the introduction of the euro (54% say yes now or when conditions are right) although a big minority still say no (36% say never).

The key messages businesses send out in the report are:
Lower business insurance premiums (59%)
Reduce red tape (51%)
Introduce a special trading status for Northern Ireland (that would give a more favourable tax regime) (28%)
Better vocational training arrangements (18%)
Support a more entrepreneurial culture (19%)

The farming sector continues to perform poorly with just 10% reporting a turnover in the first 3 months of 2005 while, at the other end of the spectrum, 44% of businesses that are providing
professional services said that turnover had increased.