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Not out of woods yet, but at least we see the path

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David Elliott, Business Editor

David Elliott, Business Editor

David Elliott, Business Editor

It's the end of June, the halfway stage of the year and the start of the holiday season (for me anyway) so it's about time for a mid-term review.

How far have we come since the start of the year? Have we aged? (Apologies, such questions come from writing stories about beauty companies. See overleaf.) Where are we going? (This is one of those deep ones that hits most people on holiday.)

Most of those questions can be answered by a ream of reports out this week, starting with Davy Ireland's state-of-the-nation economic overview on Tuesday.

It found there are chinks of light for the Northern Ireland economy, particularly from manufacturing, which is showing a buoyant return to health after struggling last year, but that there remain some pretty strong headwinds to stop our progress.

Those headwinds are similar to last year and include a perceived lack of lending and a big wad of property debts.

Not much different to the start of the year, but there is at least acknowledgement that finding out more detail on both is needed if we're to be able to sort out our finances.

Facing up to the bad news is difficult but essential if we're to move forward.

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Public spending-wise, we found out earlier this week the Executive will have less to spend but the private sector is quietly warming to news that the chance of the best talent in Northern Ireland heading into the public sector has been tempered slightly by the end of automatic pay increases.

Aside from that, we've found out that the much talked about issue of devolving corporation tax has been shelved by the Prime Minister until after 2014 and the Scottish referendum.

That's obviously not an ideal situation, but initial worry that the issue had been swept under the carpet has been tempered by David Cameron's written declaration in last week's economic package that it's still on the agenda. And in the meantime we've seen movement from a number of sources on alternative solutions to bridging the chasm between Northern Ireland's economic growth rate and the rest of the UK, particularly with today's report on devolving other fiscal powers.

All in all, we haven't come that far economically, we haven't aged but we've matured, in that we can identify the information we need to help us out and we're hopefully on the road to recovery.

Let's hope the next six months bring that road even closer.


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