With savage public spending cuts on the way, ushering in an era of |austerity, there is now a temptation to attempt to find a scapegoat |for our economic ills.
Business |Secretary Vince Cable has attacked what he calls the spivs and gamblers in the banking sector who brought the economy to its knees and now, unashamedly, still pay themselves huge bonuses.
At Stormont, church representatives criticised what they regard as a reluctance by the banks to support the business community, leading to one |instance, in their experience, of someone taking their own life because of financial problems |exacerbated by the banks.
Employers’ organisation, the CBI, sees the |impending cuts as a way of slimming a bloated, overpaid and largely indolent public sector.
All the targets for criticism are deserving of some of it. Yes, the banks behaved irresponsibly and yes, the public sector in Northern Ireland is too large. But we need a strong banking sector and had no option but to bail it out, whatever the expense. And while the public sector can be pruned and made more efficient, it is not its fault that the province’s private sector remains virtually static. We need a greater spirit of entrepreneurship and greater, and more focused, support for entrepreneurs.
It is a largely futile exercise to rake over what has brought us to this economic mess. What is required is a focused, strategic approach from politicians, trades unions, employers, and civic society on how to mitigate the spending cuts and how to raise |additional revenue through job creation rather than simply saving money by slashing services.
There is no point in the public sector lining up against the private sector or finger pointing at the banks. We are all facing difficult times. Banks need to be more flexible in support of business. The |public sector needs to be more effective and the private sector needs to be more innovative.
And our politicians need to be united in finding |a strategic approach to the problems facing us.