Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland economy 'on brink of recession' territory

The Northern Ireland economy is on the brink of 'recessionary territory' according to a leading business expert.

CBI NI Director Angela McGowan made the comments as latest figures on the Northern Ireland economy show that growth has stagnated over the past two years as output continues to fall.

The information was revealed in the Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI) released for the first quarter of 2018.

Mrs McGowan said that the data was a "stark warning for the Northern Irish economy".

“A shrinking economy reduces much-needed revenues for our public services, limits opportunities for young people and sends out the wrong signal to foreign investors at a time when the global economy is in robust health, with a solid growth rate of 3.9 per cent," she said.

“Clearly the current political vacuum and Brexit uncertainty are taking their toll on economic performance. The CBI and other business leaders have repeatedly called on political leaders to get back into government so that critical decisions can be made, on issues such aseconomic strategy, infrastructure and public service transformation.

“Action is need to remove the current handbrake on local economic activity. I think everyone would agree that the people of Northern Ireland deserve much better than this.”

Northern Ireland output has decreased by 0.3% over the last quarter and 1% over the last year. In comparison, the United Kingdom's output has increased by 1.2% over the year.

The last quarter decrease in Northern Ireland was driven by decreases in the Construction and Public sectors.

Over the past two years the Northern Ireland economy has seen 0% (flat) growth compared to 1.5% growth in the UK.

Figures released this work shows that Northern Ireland's employment is at a near record high, but this had failed to halt the decrease in output.

Northern Ireland's economy is currently 6.3% below the maximum recorded in 2006 before the economic crash.

Since the crash the UK has had a shorter downturn and faster recovery than Northern Ireland.

Construction Employers Federation Managing Director John Armstrong said the industry was suffering as a result of the political impasse in Northern Ireland.

“The lack of leadership and abdication of responsibility that the past 18 months has seen is now clearly impacting on the levels of public sector work coming to the market as well as the confidence of the private sector with regard to investing in new development.

“While Brexit completely consumes our political discourse, this survey is a pretty stark reminder of the actual reality of what contractors are having to deal with day to day."

However Grant Thornton Audit and Assurance Director Robert Gibson said that the statistics did not tell the full story and were not cause for alarm.

“While these figures may provide some cause for concern in the industry, work levels in 2017 were among some of the highest recorded in the past five years. It is also too early to determine whether the decrease is the start of a new trend or merely a short-term setback.

“The data does not include business secured outside Northern Ireland, where many of our clients in the industry continue to carry out significant levels of work.”

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