Ministers in the last executive have been accused by business of not doing their jobs properly, leaving ‘great needs’ in all sectors of society.
aeve Hunt, president of the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society, called for a new devolved government to be formed as soon as possible after the Assembly election so leadership can be secured.
She cited a temporary suspension of financial offers from economic development agency Invest NI earlier this year and the executive’s inability to spend an additional £300million allocated by the Treasury last month as examples of failure. ministers.
Ms Hunt was speaking at the Ulster Society’s annual dinner at the Titanic Belfast on Thursday.
Earlier this year, Invest NI said uncertainty over its funding under the draft budget prevented it from making offers for financial support beyond April 2022.
The agency lost funding following Brexit, while the executive also failed to agree a three-year budget, leaving departmental finances in limbo.
Former economy minister Gordon Lyons said in late February that the situation had been resolved but the agency had to prioritize some projects over others.
Ms Hunt said: “The suspension of offers of financial support by Invest NI sends the message that Northern Ireland is not open for business.
“The finance minister tells us that £300m of local services funding cannot be allocated.
“The inability to agree on a three-year budget is disappointing. We are frustrated by indecision.
“We are angry that our devolved government is failing us, once again. Our ministers are not doing what we have instructed them to do – which is to make timely decisions about our economy and all sectors of our society where there are crying needs.”
She said business people still had faith in Northern Ireland, but leadership was lacking.
“Our members still clearly believe that Northern Ireland is a great place to live and do business, but we desperately need real leadership.
The event, sponsored by Danske Bank and MCS Group, brought together around 400 business people.
She said Northern Ireland was rudderless at a time of high volatility. “As things stand, with rising costs, supply chain disruption and a war in Europe, our executive is unable to present a vision for the future and an agreed budget for services to our populations.
“We are calling for a common vision. With everything going on in the world, it is essential that we have leadership that makes key decisions, encourages business investment and looks to the post-pandemic future.
“The longer political instability continues, the harder it is for local businesses to contribute to growth, create jobs and provide a better quality of life.”
She said the pandemic had offered an opportunity to rethink how to approach things.
“We have the opportunity to assess the place of our small region in the rest of the world.
“This is an opportunity to embrace the post-pandemic future, reinvigorate our economy and realize the fantastic potential that exists here in Northern Ireland. We must ensure this opportunity does not slip away from us.
Ms Hunt also paid tribute to the role accountants have played during the Covid-19 health crisis.
She said: “The past two years have been unprecedented. It’s been hard for a long timef people. Many have struggled, and many have experienced personal loss and tragedy.
“Our members have been the first to try to keep businesses going and keep jobs viable.
“Their expertise has been essential to sustaining livelihoods and maintaining key services. The Ulster Society is proud of the role our members have played throughout the health crisis.