Whatever political party is voted in on May 5, the decisions it makes in its first months in power could "make or break" the UK's reputation as the business location of choice, the CBI has warned.
CBI director general Sir Digby Jones has stressed that the next government will preside over a vital period for UK businesses, as competition from the emerging economies reaches new and "unprecedented" levels.
His call has come as the British Chambers of Commerce has called for greater effort to be made by the new Government in tackling Britain's declining manufacturing base.
"The UK economy is at an election crossroads. Its recent success has been built on economic stability, a flexible labour market and relatively low taxes in world terms," said Sir Digby.
"But the decisions of the incoming Government in the next few months will make or break the reputation of the United Kingdon as the location of choice for UK businesses.
"The next government must commit to and deliver a reduced tax and regulatory burden for business so that our companies can successfully compete with our European neighbours, with America and especially with the developing economies in India and China," he added.
Big decisions needed to be made on transport, skills and flexible labour markets, with whether to join the euro probably the most significant of them all, he suggested.
"As they decide how to vote on May 5, company directors, managers and employees will be asking themselves which party is prepared to step up to the plate on the big decisions that will shape the business environment of the next five years," he said.
"The wealth creators of this country need to have confidence that the UK will still be the best place in Europe to do business,"
In a speech to the British Chambers of Commerce's annual conference, director general David Frost said politicians needed to grapple with the continuing decline in manufacturing jobs.
"To date much of the job losses in manufacturing have been hidden by the huge growth in public sector employment over the last few years," he said.
A greater emphasis on promoting enterprise was the best answer, he suggested.
"The decline in manufacturing employment has been compensated for by the increase in public sector employees. This is unsustainable – the current growth of public sector employment cannot continue. What we need to do is to re-invent enterprise in many communities across the country," he said.
"If communities are to be re-invigorated then we need to develop a spirit of enterprise which penetrates at every level and within every group of society – not least the young. So what we need is nothing less than a National Enterprise Strategy," he said.