Northern Ireland will be able to capitalise on its competitive advantages over the Republic only if corporate tax is reduced.
That was the message from agent CBRE at a property market briefing to the Northern Ireland Assembly & Business Trust this morning.
Marie Hunt, executive director and head of research at CBRE in Ireland, said that while conditions in the commercial property market in Northern Ireland remain challenging, there was a need to focus on the positives.
She said that occupancy costs in Northern Ireland were at least 50% lower than those prevailing in the Republic and wage costs and house prices are considerably lower, but that many of these competitive advantages would be fully capitalised on only if there is a reduction in the rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland.
According to CBRE, only 13% of office take-up in Belfast last year came from US companies, compared with 38% of the Dublin market.
The agent said that ensuring that Northern Ireland obtains autonomy to set its own rate of corporate tax and the promotion of the designation of enterprise zones had the potential to significantly boost much-needed foreign direct investment, reduce the traditional reliance on the public sector and create jobs in the region.
Brian Lavery, managing director at CBRE in Northern Ireland, said: “Northern Ireland has a lot of positive attributes. A wide range of small and medium-sized companies from the province are exporting goods and services all over the world. A number of new FDI announcements have been made in the past 12 months, encouraged by a young highly educated workforce, excellent broadband and transport infrastructure and the region’s many competitive advantages.
“Rather than focusing on the negatives, which is all too easy in the current climate, we need to focus more intently on promoting the peace and stability message and on the specific areas where we can boost Northern Ireland’s profile and prospects. This will reap benefits for the local economy and in turn boost the region’s commercial property market.”