Financial Bias as Billion Pounds Goes to Traditional Industries

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Byline: By ADRIENNE McGILL

ONE BILLION pounds of tax payers money was pumped into mainly traditional industries in Northern Ireland in the 80s and 90s while newer sectors of the economy were ignored, a major report has revealed.

Research on the use of Selective Financial Assistance offered to companies in the Province between 1984 and 1997 by economic development agencies was compiled by a group of academics from Queen s University Belfast and Durham University.

The findings were revealed yesterday at a business breakfast in Belfast organised by the Ulster Society of Chartered Accountants and attended by Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Sir Reg Empey and leading business figures.

The report said that during a difficult period for Northern Ireland ! both economically and politically ! the aid given to industry by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment s former agencies ! IDB, LEDU and IRTU ! helped increase both employment and productivity in the manufacturing sector by between 7 per cent and 10 per cent.

However, the study said little of the money went into the newer, more innovative, sectors of industry and many firms received financial assistance on more than one occasion.

Professor Richard Harris, who led the research team said there was no doubt that SFA had proved to be a [thorn]reactive rather than a [thorn]proactive step.

[thorn]In the 80s and 90s the economy was going through a tough time. Economic development agencies were not in a position to turn away companies.

[thorn]It is possible that companies would not have been interested in investing in Northern Ireland had grant aid not been as generous as it was. …