Belfast Telegraph

A (trying) day in the life of a central banker

Spending 15 minutes with a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee is not the way any of us on the business desk normally spend our Tuesday mornings, but yesterday was different.

With the central bank in town there was an expectation of blacked-out limos and beefy security guards but the reality was a lot less Hollywood and a bit more Holywood.

Actually it was in Belfast, but Paul Fisher doesn't stand on ceremony and was remarkably chipper despite having just been grilled by the cream of Northern Ireland's commercial banking community.

From them he heard that there's very little demand for credit in Northern Ireland, and I'm sure the quietly spoken central banker nodded his head in an understanding way.

He probably did the same when meeting with business bosses and owners throughout the day on Monday when they told him the banks don't want to lend to them.

The reason his eyes weren't wide with surprise was because Mr Fisher has heard it all before from bankers and business people in other regions of the UK as he tries to build up an accurate picture of economic health.

But such are the trials of the central banker, one who is trying to bridge the gap between the two through various schemes, not least the growth loan fund which rewards commercial banks with discounted interest rates if they ramp up their lending.

Whether that works or not remains to be seens but perhaps the visit of Mr Fisher could initiate a meeting between the two groups so the tribulations of both can be addressed?

The fact a member of the MPC visits these shores at all is something to be welcomed, although the bank's regional office does a sterling job in taking the temperature of the local business community.

But the fact Mr Fisher took the time to visit businesses here and to listen to the hopes and fears of business leaders should be applauded.

He even arrived early to spend the weekend visiting some of our tourist spots to get 'a feel for the place' and to get an early start on Monday.

By his own admission there's little the central bank can do to directly help businesses here but let's hope him and the other members of the MPC manage to cultivate the right sort of conditions for the economy to thrive.

If ever such an environment was needed it's now.

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