We Must Support World-Class Sectors to Become a Globally Competitive Economy – Hamilton

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has told the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce that a relentless focus on sectors of our economy that are already world class and those that could become world class is essential if Northern Ireland is to transform into a globally competitive economy.

Simon Hamilton drew a parallel with Team GB in the recent Rio Olympics and Paralympics where athletes and sports most likely to yield medal success were supported in terms of finance, training and technology.

Speaking at Chamber event in Belfast the Minister said, “We are only at the beginning of the journey to become globally competitive.  It is a journey which won’t be complete in a year.  It won’t even be finished in five.  This is a decade long effort at least.

“My Department is currently working hard at refreshing and renewing our Economic Strategy.  In essence it will be the road map that will, I hope, lead us to a time when Northern Ireland is once again punching above its weight on the international economic stage. It is my intention that the new Economic Strategy will be bold and ambitious and outline a vision of how our economy will look in 2030 and beyond. Having come through the downturn and made significant strides forward in re-balancing our economy, we now have the opportunity to push ahead and put in place a plan that will transform our economy for the better.

“It is a transformed economy that we must set our sights upon.  An economy where more of our companies have an international outlook and exporting goods, products and services outside of our region.  An economy where an increasing number of businesses realise their high growth potential and scale up from small to medium sized companies, employing more people in the process.  An economy where entrepreneurship and enterprise is endemic and reflected in a growing status as a start-up nation.  An economy where innovation is embedded in the DNA of every company.  An economy where government is business’s biggest supporter, putting in place financial, infrastructural and policy support to ensure our economy thrives.  An economy where we build industries on the back of where we are genuinely world class in academic research.  An economy where our people possess the skills they need to improve their lives.  And – above all – an economy that works for everyone.”

The Minister concluded: “Being a globally competitive economy won’t mean that Northern Ireland will become one of the biggest economies in the world.  But what it does mean is that we will have a well earned, totally justified, evidence based reputation as one of the world’s most dynamic, innovative and high performing small advanced economies.

“I am immensely proud of the world beating performance of so many of our local businesses.  The fact that one in three London red buses are made by Wrightbus in Ballymena.  That one in ten of the cholesterol tests used in the world are made by Randox and that Moy Park produces 25% of Western Europe’s chicken.  It is this sort of success I want us to build on in our new Economic Strategy.

“Only by concentrating our efforts on those sectors and sub sectors of the economy where we can truly shine on the international stage will we be able to breakthrough.  We need to ask ourselves what are we already world class at and what could we become world class at?  What are the areas of the economy where we have excellent research capability, large innovative companies, a superb SME supply chain and the requisite skills base?  Then we need to ruthlessly and relentlessly support those sectors towards even greater success.

“In many ways, what we need for our economy is to emulate the ethos of Team GB in the Olympics and Paralympics.  Team GB identified the sports and the athletes who were most likely to produce medal success.  They then invested heavily in the people, their training and the technology they used.  An economy our size can’t succeed in every sector.  But we can be world class where we are already strong and where we are showing promise.  Like Team GB, we shouldn’t be afraid to support those sectors that can make our economy globally competitive.

“This is not an easy task by any means.  There will be doubters.  And there will be challenges along the way.  But I am convinced that using all of our talents and supporting the sectors most likely to succeed, Northern Ireland can transform over time into a genuinely globally competitive economy.”