No Room for Complacency

Bob Barbour, Director & Chief ExecutiveThe world has changed a lot since December 2010. The past year, 2011 has been a difficult year for the many with a few exceptions. The Centre, while continuing to promote the private sector voice for Competitiveness and provide a unique leadership function, has not been immune to the recession and cost cutting.

The  government’s plan for the pain to stop by 2015 is now only a dream due to the Euro crisis and the growth in 2016 will be similar to Japan’s lost decade. Not that the strategy is in doubt. Spending cuts will have to continue so that the government and the nation can live within their means.

On the positive side there is an opportunity for Northern Ireland to transition more quickly through investment into higher value technology jobs with new export opportunities while rebalancing the economy.  Renewable Energy for example is at the cross roads. Wind, solar, biomass & geothermal sector has grown in fits and starts. There is potential to build momentum to become a self-sustaining industry. (Eg: Chinese PV module manufacturers have increased their share of the global market in the last four years to more than 50%.) Energy prices will evidently continue to rise as Asia and the emerging Markets consume more and more while Northern Ireland’s Competitiveness will continue to be negatively impacted unless we address the issue and use our own natural resources of wind and wave to underpin our energy security and hold down costs over the longer term.

Regulatory tensions are constraining growth and there seems to be a lack of innovative thinking or the will to remove the regulatory and in some cases planning road blocks that would allow progress. In many cases we are betting on the rising births of new companies from start-up, to scale up to help to address the need for growth in employment opportunities. So we need to start coping better with ambiguity as there is nothing certain anymore. The bottom line in all this is that we will continue to live with unpredictability yet Northern Ireland needs to be more competitive. This means slicker businesses, a smaller public sector, more export growth and a step change in innovation and leadership behavior.

So as 2011 draws to a close and a pause to enjoy the holidays, we at the Centre for Competitiveness look forward to continuing to work with you, to meet the challenges of 2012 and beyond. When more than ever we need a revolution in thinking and practice – Dreamers, Drivers and Doers.

Bob Barbour
Chief Executive

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