It was a busy year... but there is a lot more to come in 2017
What a year! As we look back over the last 12 months, global political events made 2016 a year to remember. The economic optimism of the New Year was shattered by Brexit in June, lifted temporarily by footballing successes in the summer and dampened by the US Presidential election in November.
2017 will begin with the inauguration of President Trump and ongoing legal action to be settled prior to the evoking of Article 50, the mechanism which will initiate the UK’s exit from the European Union. Currently the only certainty for 2017 is that we are entering a period of profound uncertainty — politically, socially and economically.
Since the initial wave of panic from the Brexit vote in June, there has notably been limited immediate economic impact, except of course for the fall in sterling. The foreign exchange volatility has resulted in an influx of shoppers from the Republic of Ireland to the north, created short term competitive advantage for exporters, and challenges for local businesses with international supply chains. The long-term economic impact on Northern Ireland cannot be determined however until the terms of the trading relationships with other countries have been clarified.
In America, attention will be directed to the contents of President-elect Trump’s economic policy, as he strives to ‘Make America Great Again’. The announcement of $550bn expenditure on national infrastructure indicates that there will be greater focus on government spending and creating public sector employment.
In contrast, the Northern Ireland economy will need to continue to adapt to an environment of public sector cuts and to continue to move away from the historical over-reliance on that sector.
The Economy Minister and the Executive can help facilitate such a rebalancing of the economy by providing support to a generation of people willing to take the risk of starting up and growing their own businesses.
Meanwhile, given the economic uncertainty of 2017, it is important that businesses are financially stable and appropriately structured in order to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.
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