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Enterprise Minister Opens NI Centre For Economic Policy

At the launch of the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy (NICEP) with Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster and NICEP Director Professor Neil Gibson (centre) with sponsors Gerry McGinn, left, Managing Director of First Trust Bank and Len O'Hagan, right, Chairman of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners.

The NI Centre for Economic Policy (NICEP), a new University of Ulster research centre, has been officially opened by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Based at the Ulster Business School and with sponsorship support from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), First Trust Bank and the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, NICEP will provide Ministers and their officials with independent and robust economic research to inform their economic policy choices.

Headed up by Professor Neil Gibson and supported by Associate Directors Richard Johnston and Gareth Hetherington, NICEP will seek to engage with all organisations that have an interest in helping Northern Ireland achieve its economic ambitions.

Speaking at the launch, Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster MLA welcomed her Departments support for the NICEP, stating: “Not only are we emerging from the deepest recession on record, we are also looking to grow the private sector through our Economic Strategy and secure the best result for Northern Ireland in areas such as Corporation Tax and the Economic Pact.

“This focus on the economy demands robust, policy-orientated economic research to ensure we make the right decisions, and I believe that NICEP has a vital role to play in helping to provide this. The Centre, working both with the public and private sector as well as academia, is an innovative and joined-up solution to delivering independent policy research in Northern Ireland. I look forward to seeing the centre working closely with my Department as we continue to rebuild and rebalance our economy.”

The University of Ulster’s Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said the role of the Centre would be to challenge and inform decision makers.

He said: “In order to respond to the challenges identified in the Independent Review of Economic Policy (IREP), it is important we conduct world class research to identify the policies that will allow Northern Ireland to achieve its full economic potential. With the establishment of NICEP, the University of Ulster is looking to play our part in transforming the economic landscape of a region that has, for too long, looked to others to solve its problems.”

During the launch, NICEP Director Professor Neil Gibson outlined the Centre’s proposed research programme which includes the development of the first comprehensive macro-economic policy stimulus model of the Northern Ireland economy.

Professor Gibson said: “There are many challenges ahead and any recovery, however welcome, should not dissuade us from being relentless in improving Northern Ireland as a place to do business. Developing new policy and practices to accelerate any recovery and prepare for future challenges is an integral part of that process.”

Professor Gibson also used the launch event to issue NICEP’s inaugural Economic Outlook. NICEP forecast modest growth of 0.7% in 2013, increasing to 1.5% in 2014 equating to 6,000 net new jobs this year and a further 12,000 in 2014. In the longer term, NICEP forecast on-going austerity, rising interest rates and increased inflation constraining economic growth.

“It is recognised that this projection of a recovery failing to gather pace in the medium term is at odds with most published forecasts. As a result there should be a greater emphasis on policy makers to listen to the challenges of businesses and create a policy environment conducive to economic growth, and one that can cope with future austerity.”

In addition, NICEP will be supported in its work by an Advisory Board chaired by Dr Graham Gudgin and which includes representatives from the University of Ulster and the other founding sponsors.

Gerry McGinn, Managing Director, First Trust Bank said, “First Trust Bank are delighted to be involved with NICEP. The Northern Ireland economy is showing initial signs of recovery, and it is important that there is objective and well informed economic policy advice to nurture long term sustainable growth for both local business and Government. In addition, our association with NICEP allows us to provide our clients with the latest economic information and commentary developed specifically for the Northern Ireland economy.”

Roy Adair, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour, said, "Belfast Harbour is very pleased to sponsor NICEP. Northern Ireland has faced significant economic challenges in recent years and as a society we need to engage in research and meaningful economic debate to help shape the policy environment that will move us beyond recession, and build a stronger and more vibrant economy. We look forward to NICEP being at the heart of this debate."

ENDS

AUDIO: Professor Neil Gibson previews the work of the NICEP team with BBC's Colletta Smith: https://audioboo.fm/boos/1638210-professor-neil-gibson-previews-the-work-of-the-northern-ireland-centre-for-economic-policy-nicep-with-colletta-smith

You can hear Colletta Smith's full BBC podcast for Wednesday 2 October 2013 by visiting
http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/northernireland/nibusiness/nibusiness_20131002-0852a.mp3