After Covid-19, the "new normal" for the local economy will not be as good as the "old normal". The pandemic has brought many major temporary problems from which there will be partial recoveries.
However, it has caused other unwelcome changes which will leave enduring effects. An imperfect Brexit will add to the unwanted changes.
The Northern Ireland economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19-induced recession and Brexit. Then, to make matters worse, Brexit has been made more difficult by the uncertainties caused by the poor implementation of the agreed Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol which is designed to give Northern Ireland a favourable trading deal, keeping Northern Ireland as part of the EU for trading purposes.
In the last year the local economy has lost up to 15% of total output. That serious impact was predicted.
What is less readily predicted is the potential partial recovery process.
Originally, there was a hope that the Covid-19 threat would be urgently tackled, then diminished and recovery would follow, aided by new improved medical and scientific intervention.
Events have not proved to be so predictable.
Lockdowns and precautionary policies have proved inadequate to convincingly deal with the challenge.
Despite the Government making large payments available to partially offset the loss of earned income, many people are living with greatly reduced earnings.
Government's earnings compensation schemes have, unhappily, left many people outside the safety net. Stormont ministers have not felt able to fill all the cracks.
Many former employees have needed to apply for Universal Credit.
Critically the impact of the covid-19 induced recession has been felt in very differing proportions. Even with attempts to offset the loss of personal incomes in as fair a way as Government can devise, the results have left large degrees of inequity and an obvious sense of unfairness.
The most disadvantaged people, suffering because of the Covid-19 impact includes large numbers of self-employed people with a wide range of skills and qualifications, ranging from skilled craftsmen and women to inexperienced young people just reaching the labour market from their period of full-time schooling.
Although normally less vulnerable to a large loss of income in a recession, events in 2020 have hit the living standards of many property owners who have relied on rental incomes, whether from residential assets or, more sharply, from commercial property (especially some of the owners of high street - retail etc - assets).
For property owners, the recession of 2020 comes as the property market has not fully recovered from the earlier recession in the period 2016-19.
The Covid-19 induced recession, now at risk of amplification as the anticipation of Brexit increases instability in the economy, is unlike a conventional trade-related recession.
It is more complex in its impact and is testing the initiatives of central and regional government. Evidence of the depth and contrasts of the Covid-19 induced recession is increasing.
The balance sheet of one of the larger locally based banks is illuminating.
At the end of September 2020, the financial results from Danske Bank in Northern Ireland show that the bank had recorded two interesting results.
First, in the last year when unemployment has risen sharply, the value of deposits held by bank customers had increased by around 23% to reach £9,056m.
This is a larger increase than in a normal year and (in the absence of other information) suggests that many households, who are able, have been increasing their savings by more than usual which may reflect the uncertainty caused by recent events.
Second, in an uncomfortable reminder of the stress in the business world, Danske Bank has judged that it should make provision for £35m in loans impaired in the last year.
As the economy moves towards 2021, the prospects are worrying.
There is hope of reduced distorting and disrupting effects from Covid-19. One of the new vaccines will surely offer some early relief from illness and incapacity.
However, that will set a 'new normal' where:
The new normal in 2021 will leave big gaps compared to 2019. A fresh programme for Government will be needed.
Unfortunately, a slow rising tide will not lift up all ships equally.