Belfast Telegraph

Outlook remains gloomy for next year's economy

By Margaret Canning

The global economy could head into another recession in 2013, leaving Northern Ireland ever more buffeted by factors beyond its control, according to a survey of accountants.

The 2013 economic outlook from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) said opportunities for business growth in Northern Ireland seem "as distant as ever" as we lacked buffers against global turbulence.

ACCA's survey of 2,500 accountants found that confidence in the global economy fell in 2012, and just over two-thirds thought the economy stagnating or reversing.

Gloom in the UK was perpetuated by Chancellor George Osborne saying he expected the austerity programme to extend until 2018, with the UK economy to shrink this year by 0.1%.

Brian McGuire of the Ulster network of the ACCA said globalisation had left the economy more inter-dependent than ever.

"Some of the overriding factors such as the eurozone debt crisis, the slowdown in Asia as well as the sluggish US recovery are all feeding into each other and no region is unaffected - in fact, the degree to which movements in survey indices are synchronised between regions is uncanny."

While China had grown rapidly, the growth of its export machine had slowed down as the world bought less of its products.

But Mr McGuire added that there was some light at the end of the tunnel for western Europe. "Businesses said that they have started to see the beginnings of a credible plan to resolve the region's debt crisis, the promise of a more active role for the European Central Bank as well as continued efforts towards fiscal integration - 52% believe that the state of the global economy is improving."

Confidence was slightly up in the third quarter in the UK business sector, with 16% of businesses reporting confidence gains. Those signs of optimism were due to companies adjusting their expectations of growth.

The cut to UK corporation tax to 21% by 2014 was a "step in the right direction" and would position the UK economy as a more attractive investment destination.

He said moves to ensure multi-nationals pay enough tax, including the efforts to prevent unfair transfer pricing, were "highly beneficial".

"There is no point in making the UK a more attractive place to do business and not collect the tax."

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has forecast economic decline of around 0.5% for Northern Ireland this year, while next year could show an improvement of as much as 1.2% - the weakest growth, however, of the UK's three devolved nations.