Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Economy must keep looking outwards

Although Northern Ireland is not in recession, it is impossible to avoid the dark storm clouds which are gathering.

Two reports out today paint a bleak picture of life in the private sector and in light of further cost increases, it can be assumed that firms are feeling more pain.

According to Ulster Bank’s report, the rate of economic decline is faster than at any time since the survey began, with a quarter of companies saying they had shed staff over the past month.

For its part, BT Business’s small business survey showed that firms were suffering a lethal combination of higher costs and lower returns.

Now that higher energy costs have taken effect, their fortunes are likely to have deteriorated, and a long, hard winter lies ahead.

That said, last week’s 0.5% cut in interest rates should help mortgage-holders and may encourage people to loosen their purse-strings a little.

But with the financial crisis worsening, and the stock market in the doldrums, there is an all-pervading air of gloom and doom.

Even so, the best form of defence is always attack and Economy Minister Arlene Foster is to be commended for leading a trade mission to the US later this month.

The reality is that despite the despondency, there is still business to be done.

Northern Ireland needs to exploit every opportunity that comes its way.

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