Ross Carroll is a Public Policy Manager for a multi-national company and is a member of the Bow Group. His new paper, The Enterprise Nation? Developing Northern Ireland into an Enterprise Zone, is published today by the Bow Group.
At the Conservative Party conference in October 2009, Owen Paterson MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that should the Conservative Party win the next general election, it would look to develop Northern Ireland into a private sector economic ‘enterprise zone’.
This has been reiterated by Sir Reg Empey, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, which has of course formed an electoral alliance with the Conservative Party for the general election. In my report whcih the Bow Group is publishing today, I examine some of the challenges confronting the Northern Irish economy, whilst considering some aspects of what an ‘enterprise zone’ may look like in practice.
My conclusions have been drawn from research and analysis over the last six months, considering the past attention paid to this issue by the Labour Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as assessing some of the key factors involved in the remarkable ‘Celtic Tiger’ years of growth experienced by the province's nearest neighbours in the Republic of Ireland. The report has also been based on expert interviews with business, entrepreneurs, economists and politicians, including former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.
I conclude that the Northern Irish economy is in need of development as part of a long-term vision. Current over-reliance on subvention from Westminster and subsequent public spending (accounting for as much as 77.6% of the economy) has had the effect of stifling the growth and development of the private sector. This could have profound implications for the province as we enter a period of sustained retrenchment in public spending.