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Carney's first task is to fix the inflation rate

It looks like Captain Carney has shown up at just the right time. No sooner had the new governor of the Bank of England slipped his sensible brogues under his mahogony desk in his Threadneedle Street office than the inflation data is released.

It showed the Bank is failing to keep the one major factor on its to-do list under control.

The annual rate of price rises for goods and services climbed to 2.9% last month from 2.7%, a jump which might not sound like much but which is tantamount to an ocean for economics boffins.

The banks are tasked with keeping inflation at 2%, a nice steady number which gives everyone's wages a chance to keep pace.

At 2.9% many of us who haven't had a pay rise in a few years – and there are a large number of people in that situation in Northern Ireland – are in actual fact taking a pay cut by stealth and seeing our disposable income disappear faster than a Mr Frostie on a summer's day.

But fear not because the central bank's new governor Mark Carney has just come from a similar position in Canada where he managed to keep a lid on inflation.

As he left the position of head of that region's central bank its consumer price index inflation rate at just 0.7%, a figure which the UK hasn't seen for many years.

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It's worth pointing out that such a low figure causes just as much abacus fiddling amongst the economist community as our own over-target inflation.

It can be a precluder to deflation, a situation which kicks the economy in the teeth as consumers keep hands in their pockets awaiting a fall in price rises.

So maybe Mr Carney can sprinkle a little of his low inflationary magic in Threadneedle Street; not too much but enough to make sure you and I have a pound or two to spend on things we'd like to rather than things we have to.

And when it comes to spending, it seems he's soon going to find out how the banking landscape across the UK differs, particularly in Northern Ireland. That's because the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is to set about an inquiry to highlight how businesses here, and indeed individuals, operate in a unique environment when it comes to depositing, and probably more importantly, borrowing money.

Other UK regions are dominated by UK lenders while the Republic is dominated by Irish lenders, but we have a mixture of the two. That's not a siginificant issue when times are good but over the last few years this blend has been a bit of an achilles heel to the Northern Ireland economy.

That's because the Bank of England's funding for lending scheme, designed to persuade commercial banks to release credit to business, was only effective on banks it controls, ie the UK banks.

A quick survey of Northern Ireland's banks by this newspaper a few months ago found there was only one actively involved in the funding for lending scheme while the rest were quick to say they were "looking into availing of it", unsurprising seeing as they weren't coming under pressure from their own central banks.

What the inquiry will find out is that a one-size-fits-all approach to boosting lending in the UK won't work here and that more imaginative means need to be thought up to get credit flowing.

So, as Mr Carney gets comfortable, his own to-do list is getting longer and longer...


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