Belfast Telegraph

Pain now will leave us ready for joy later

By David Elliot

The darkest day is just before the dawn, is a phrase often bandied about by country folk of a certain generation, and how true such sentiment seems now.

Just after the UK officially fell back in to recession for the second time and the Northern Ireland economy continued on its course without seemingly having enjoyed the recovery in between the dips (the drumlin, if you will), you'd be forgiven for thinking the darkest day is upon us.

It certainly seems that way for Spain which also lurched back in to recession this week. Ironically Spain found itself on the end of something rarer than an expanding profit margin these days: a compliment from Germany.

The German economy hasn't had an easy ride over the last few months but remains the most steadfast and secure in Europe.

It's still used as the benchmark from which other country's borrowings are priced and its leaders certainly don't throw compliments around the eurozone.

But that's just what its finance minister Wolfgang Schauble did yesterday as he praised Spain for implementing an austerity package to make the eyes water.

This when Spain has an unemployment rate of nearly 25% of the working population or 50% in the 18-24 age bracket.

What would this advocate of the kind of tough love which might win financial plaudits but certainly doesn't win votes think of our own austerity efforts?

Government spending has been slashed across all areas of Northern Ireland but he might be less than impressed by our attempts to rebalance the economy.

It would appear that the expected job losses have either not taken place of not been reported.

In the fourth quarter of 2011 Northern Ireland had 27.9% employed in the public sector, while Wales only has 25.8%, the North East 24.6% and Scotland 23.8%.

Worringly, Schauble's theory is that you have to take the pain before you can see the gain.

He reckons by enduring austerity now Spain will be well prepared to bounce back when it's worked out its debt and the global economy is on its uppers.

It'll certainly be a lot leaner, much more so than the Northern Ireland economy.

It's not easy but if we're to be an economic force to be reckoned with in years to come we need to finish the job of rebalancing now.

If we do that then there may be a few more dark days to come but there'll definitely be many thousands of bright days ahead.

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