Belfast Telegraph

Bank predicts 3% rise in GDP

By Nigel Tilson

Economic growth in Northern Ireland will continue in 2008 at or close to the long run average, it has been claimed.

First Trust Bank's latest Economic Outlook and Business Review forecasts GDP growth of 3% next year.

The outlook for the Northern Ireland economy remains broadly positive, said Michael Smyth, senior lecturer in economics at the University of Ulster, in the report.

"With the investment strategy representing a huge vote of confidence in the future of the economy and business rates on hold for the next three years, we are seeing the introduction of a new pragmatic approach to politics in Northern Ireland," he pointed out.

"Overall in this context the outlook remains broadly positive for the Northern Ireland economy over the next 12 months despite the signs of slowing growth in the national economy. Optimism remains high."

Mr Smyth also said a final judgment should not be made on the Northern Ireland Executive's pro-business policies until a year from now.

He said such a timeframe would allow for a clearer picture of whether promised measures begin to materialise.

"While the Budget sets the right direction for the economy and places the encouragement of greater private sector investment and growth as the top priority, this will only be achievable if the promised measures within the Programme for Government and Budget materialise," he noted.

"If, for example, the efficiency savings upon which much of the budget allocations are predicated are not met then the prospect of departmental budget cuts looms large."

The First Trust report points out that the housing market has cooled in the province and is likely to see further decline next year.

It also says the new investment strategy for Northern Ireland is more coherent than its predecessor.

Belfast Telegraph