Belfast Chamber Statement on Executive’s ‘Pathway to Recovery’

Commenting on the publication of the Executive’s ‘Pathway to Recovery’, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said,“Belfast Chamber has always been clear that the challenge facing the NI Executive in navigating us all out of the COVID-19 crisis is an immense one. No one envies the task. However, it is not unreasonable to expect better than the roadmap published today.

The Executive may have agreed their route to reopening the economy, but the truth is, none of us know when this journey will actually start or how long it will take. Each step will, no doubt, be subject to Executive wrangling with businesses unable to plan properly. It is not too harsh to say that as far as offering both hope and certainty, this falls far short.

Not only are there no dates, but there is no clarity about where certain health indicators need to be to move us through each of the steps, there is potential for confusing communications as different sectors and sub sectors within the pathways are at different stages, and there is the real risk that no timetable will see many businesses calling it a day. After talking in recent times about hope, Ministers have, today, extinguished it for many. Businesses, who now have no idea when they can reopen their doors, need the Executive to seriously up the support they offer including a rates holiday for the whole of next year to sectors like retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism.

With NI experiencing its lowest infection rates since September, a hugely successful vaccine rollout and real life data showing the actual impact that the vaccine is having on hospitalisation levels, lots of people will be bemused at this grossly underwhelming effort from the Executive. The absence of indicative dates, which do not have to be set in stone, stands in stark contrast to that of other administrations. Indeed, many are already wondering why it took so long to produce something so disappointing. Almost a year since the first lockdown, people will look at this plan and ask themselves ‘when can I hug my elderly parents’ or ‘when can I start earning a living again’. Today, no one is any the wiser”.