Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Stalling economy needs a jump-start

On any reading, the Northern Ireland economy is in poor shape. Unemployment has risen to 70,000, up nearly 5% on the year while the UK figure has fallen by 1.4%.

Services, so long the mainstay of the private sector, and production both showed falling output in the |second quarter of this year, and construction output fell sharply in the same period. But then the figures are not surprising as we see the evidence with our own eyes every time we walk down |another high street with more closed shops or read of another firm laying off workers.

The figures should serve as a call to arms for our local politicians. We have backed the lowering of corporation tax as a stimulus to attract inward |investment. And we hope that Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers and Executive ministers will press the case strongly at today’s meeting on the issue with Treasury officials in London. They must convince the Government that the economic situation here is serious and over-reliance on the public sector here makes us all more vulnerable.

Of course there are critics of proposals to cut corporation tax. But they have yet to come up with an alternative strategy. There is no better time to make it known if they have one. And that includes government ministers at Westminster who are — at best — reluctant to entertain devolving tax-varying powers to Stormont. What ideas have they for stimulating and rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy? Or, indeed, do they even care?

Theresa Villiers must convince her government colleagues of the necessity for keeping a very close eye on the economy here. While we have a devolved administration, the full impact of the public sector cuts have yet to be felt, and ministers here have limited powers to really change things with their reliance on a diminishing block grant for revenue.

Whilst this newspaper does not want to be a prophet of doom, it is evident that the economy needs a jump start to get it moving in the right direction — and it needs it quickly.

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