Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Sammy, it's not media's fault the economy sucks

Another day, another round of finger pointing at us by an elected representative. This time it was the bold Sammy Wilson, a man not wont to hold his thoughts behind closed doors.

He told a breakfast gathering in Belfast yesterday that "even good news is turned in to bad news" by the media these days when it comes to the economy.

Of course, the finance minister was preaching to the converted, standing as he was amidst a group of some of Northern Ireland's top estate agents and surveyors.

Certainly the gentle ribbing this reporter received from other guests at the breakfast laid much of the blame for the crash in property prices at our door, not reckless lending.

But the minister then did a strange thing for a politician: he accepted blame.

I say he accepted blame but it was more a case of "we as politicians" overreacted to news of cuts to public spending and "that has set the mood for the media".

No it hasn't.

Facts have set the mood of the media rather than crying by politians over tightening budgets.

The fact that UK economic output has shrunk for two consecutive quarters, that two major European economies are on the brink of collapse and that equity markets have fallen off the edge of a cliff has set the mood of the media.

If there was good economic news out there to be shouting about we would be singing it from the cliff tops.

Certainly, during the boom years up to 2007, when good news stories were ten a penny, there weren't many politians or others complaining that we were out of line reporting massive rises in GDP.

And so the same should be true now, when it would be remiss of us not to report the GDP or price falls or indeed not represent an accurate picture of the economy.

The minister is right in saying we need to inspire confidence in the economy, but only confidence based on sound foundations and backed up by facts.

Let's not forget that it was overconfidence based on hot air which got us into this mess in the first place.

Meanwhile, over in Spain the world's investors seem to be losing patience with alarming speed.

Borrowing costs for the country's government are heading close to the dreaded 7% - the level which forced our nearest neighbours, Greece and Portugal to look for bailout money.

In the meantime UK bonds have slumped as we become like the gold of yesteryear, a safe haven investment for the nervous.

Maybe Sammy can have a word with the Treasury and leverage some of this treasure trove?