Belfast Telegraph

Economy is still looking patchy, says top banker

By Clare Weir

The Northern Ireland economy remains 'patchy', according to a top official at the Bank of England.

Andy Haldane is one of the 11 members of the Bank's new Financial Policy Committee, the first such body in the world aimed at keeping the financial system safe in the face of heightened financial risks, while at the same time supporting the flow of credit to the economy.

Mr Haldane visited a number of businesses and financial institutions during his two-day visit to Belfast and Lisburn.

He also gave a speech to students at Queen's University where he explained how the Bank's policymaking has evolved over its 318-year history and explained more about his committee's macro-prudential policy which will mean the relaxation of certain banking regulations to encourage more lending and to allow banks to dip more easily into their stocks of easy-to-sell assets.

The Belfast Telegraph was the first newspaper that Mr Haldane spoke to about the new measures.

"If there was a magic bullet, we would have fired it years ago," he said. "As long as there is a cloud over the Eurozone, banks will come up with good reason not to lend or spend, we cannot force people but we can remove regulatory impediments."

After speaking to businesses here, Mr Haldane said he got the impression that the Northern Ireland economy is 'patchy'.

"In the manufacturing sector, like in the rest of the UK, things seem pretty bumpy," he said.

"However in the high-tech electronics sector, companies are seeing real opportunities for money to be made, if you hit a sweet spot, things can be pretty good.

"Overall, there is a lot of uncertainty and we are all still bumping along the bottom."

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