Belfast Telegraph

Global crisis 'slowing NI growth'

The global financial crisis is slowing Northern Ireland's growth, it has been claimed.

Sluggish UK growth and difficulties in Ireland and the wider eurozone are reducing the prospects for local exports and recovery, the Northern Ireland Economic Outlook said.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) chief economist Esmond Birnie predicted Northern Ireland would grow only by around 0.8% this year, with the prospects for next year impossible to forecast with confidence.

"There have been some encouraging signs of recovery in local manufacturing exports but these cannot compensate for lacklustre performance in other sectors and the likely impact of forthcoming public spending cuts," he said.

The PwC outlook warned of the impact of fears over the debt crisis in Europe and the US economic recovery in combining to slow Northern Ireland's growth.

It said consumer confidence has dropped, inflation remains high, UK bank lending to businesses has plummeted and the trade deficit has widened.

Dr Birnie said UK gross domestic product grew by only 0.2% in the second quarter of this year and this was not enough to drive real recovery.

"Whilst underlying UK growth may be better than 0.2% a quarter and we may still avoid a double-dip recession, recovery is precariously weak and the UK is now unlikely to attain the 1.7% growth forecast by the Chancellor in the March 2011 Budget," he added.

He said Northern Ireland business confidence is the lowest in the UK regions, consumers fear higher food prices and job losses, while unemployment is at its highest since October 1986. The number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits stood at 59,700 in June 2011 - up 400 from the previous month.

All major sectors report employment down on the comparable period in 2009, with the exception of tourism and leisure, according to the PwC report.

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