Hamilton - Cause for economic optimism in 2014

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has today outlined his optimism for the Northern Ireland economy in the year ahead at an event organised by the Kilkeel, Newcastle and Warrenpoint Chambers of Commerce.

“2013 was notable for how many key economic indicators were showing their best results since the crisis began - unemployment fell; employment rose; business activity across all sectors increased - and consumer confidence began to improve. 
“This growing confidence was reflected in the rise in house sales and the 10% increase in new car registrations. During the darkest days of the downturn when each of these indicators were moving in the wrong direction they were rightly reported as signs of how tough times were. Now that they are moving in the right direction, it is only correct that we acknowledge that, slowly but surely, the economy is rallying and is on the road to recovery. 
“Whilst I believe that we are right to be optimistic about our economic fortunes in 2014, we must resist the temptation to take growth for granted. Just because things like unemployment, business activity and consumer confidence are improving, it doesn’t mean that we can stop investing in the skills and infrastructure we need for the dynamic and innovative economy we desire. It doesn’t mean that companies can ease off in their efforts to export their goods and services and open up new markets. We must balance our investments as an Executive between assisting those businesses that are still struggling whilst continuing to help companies who can, to avail of the opportunities that growing economies around the world present. 
“The Chancellor’s suggestion that the UK could face a further £25billion in public spending reductions however, gives an indication that even if the economy is improving other challenges will remain for some years to come and it only underscores the need for government here to embrace the need to reform and be innovative so that the impact of future spending reductions doesn’t severely affect public services. 
“I hope that the year ahead also brings Northern Ireland the power to better shape our own economic destiny. A positive decision by the Prime Minister to devolve corporation tax powers to the Assembly will give us the chance to build upon the success we’ve already achieved as the second most attractive destination in the UK for foreign direct investment and home to an increasing number of blue chip companies, and begin to truly transform our economy. 
“As I meet with and listen to local companies, I get a real sense Northern Ireland’s economy is on the move and on the move in the right direction. There is a growing optimism within firms that is reflected in fuller order books and the employment of more people. 
“I know that 2014 won’t all be good economic news either - some businesses will still struggle and some will not survive - but on balance I believe that 2014 will be a year of increasing opportunity for the Northern Ireland economy and one, I hope, which is reflected upon in 12 months time as the beginning of better times.”
Notes to editors:
1. During his visit to Kilkeel the Minister also visited and met with staff from two local companies – Copas Technologies Ltd and BE Aerospace.
 2. Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Finance and Personnel Communications Office on Tel: 028 9081 6724 or Tel: 028 9081 6725. Out of Office hours please contact theDuty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.