08 May 2018

The TV advertising for online gambling companies constantly makes it easier to wager on sporting events worldwide with Ray Winstone being part of the world’s largest betting market albeit he gambles responsibly on Bet 365. For Mr Green everything is possible;  at Sky Bet you are trying to win Jeff Stelling’s money when you gamble on football, and with Ladbroke’s Chris Kamara, everything is “unbelievable” . However, even the industry recognises that gambling is addictive and the consequences of foolhardy behaviour catastrophic, hence the current stressing of the slogan “when the fun stops, stop”.

Businesses in Northern Ireland have watched our politicians gamble with our future for way too long, and despite reassurances, we are no closer to having answers relating to many issues. For many of us the fun stopped a while ago yet the politicians gamble on without any real regard for the damage they leave behind.

The last couple of years have seen a political impasse of epic proportion and a lack of leadership that is staggering in its ineptitude.  The RHI scandal now seems like distant memory but it effectively created the vacuum that continues to today. Add in the Brexit negotiations and Northern Ireland business is left leaderless, rudderless and without any clear direction towards which to steer the economic ship. 

I have written before that “capital is a coward” and it is hard to deliver inward investment and jobs when you cannot point to basic requirements such as stable government, an effective planning regime and a certainty surrounding cross- border issues. At Osborne King we have continued to try and sell the positives of Northern Ireland as a region in which to invest but our successes are matched with failures as deals fall away when investors research the uncertain climate that exists. For the third time in recent months we have heard of a significant deal being pulled because of “the political uncertainty within Northern Ireland” (only mildly amusing when I realise that my entire 35- year career has been within a climate of political instability) and on each occasion the investors are well experienced in international markets.

Northern Ireland needs inward investment especially within the financial/legal/IT services sectors and to enable property developments to be viable which feeds through to helping our construction sector. US companies constantly tell us that they like NI due to the availability of graduate talent, relatively low occupational and wage costs and a good standard of living. Our economy is changing and we need to continue to encourage graduates to stay and work within the local economy rather than repeat the brain drain we saw in the 70s and 80s. To effectively do this we need to see politicians focus on a few of the more important business decisions rather than spend countless wasted hours on things that in reality very few people actually care about. I genuinely believe that business people care far more about having a stable economy with no border controls to the Republic and UK markets rather than who is responsible for a failed RHI scheme or whether we should have an Irish language Act.

We need our politicians to find a workable solution or step aside and allow for some form of effective government to function. We need a planning system that assists investment rather than throw up obstacles every step of the way. We need entrepreneurs to be encouraged to build a future here and we need to retain our young professionals to stay and help us build a stronger economy. If our politicians stopped creating unnecessary roadblocks our future would be less of a gamble and more of an educated guess.

For most of us the fun of watching our politicians gamble with all our futures stopped some time ago, sadly they don’t seem to realise the concept of “when the fun stops, stop!”

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