Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Expect the worst, plan for the best

You know times are bad - and probably about to get worse - when even the Prime Minister cannot be upbeat in his New Year message.

All David Cameron could muster by way of encouragement was that even in these trying times we can achieve. With more public spending cuts on the way, one could be forgiven for being very bleak about prospects in the coming year in Northern Ireland, the part of the UK most reliant on the public sector.

Indeed the past year offered little encouragement on the economic front with an average of one business here closing every day in the nine months up until last September and national retailers also going to the wall. Personal bankruptcies rose by 22% showing that individuals were not immune to the harsh economic climate. Behind these statistics lie tales of human misery, with people losing firms they had built up, possibly over decades, or having their homes put in jeopardy because of redundancy or mounting debts.

So this year it's vital the power-sharing Executive really does get down to business and offer clear and innovative leadership. After a slow start, it finally produced its Programme for Government which contained some enterprising ideas and its rates relief and loans for small companies are positive moves which should encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of people here. Of course we cannot expect the local economy to buck national and global trends, but its small size is a benefit making it more agile and more receptive to new ideas and new initiatives.

The coming year should herald something of a tourism bonanza with the Titanic centenary bound to bring in visitors to the place where the liner was built and next year, it is the turn of Londonderry which begins its reign as UK City of Culture.

We must take advantage of these events to bring in visitors and money and to give the province a feelgood factor. After all, this recession cannot last forever and we must be prepared for any upturn.

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