Editor's Viewpoint: Clinton sets challenge on economic policy
Former US President, Bill Clinton, issued a timely warning yesterday on the danger of plunging the province into recession if the impending government austerity cuts are too deep.
It is this stance which this newspaper has repeatedly taken as we remain to be convinced that the Con-Lib coalition government at Westminster fully understands the delicate nature of the Northern Ireland economy. While we cannot be immune from a tightening of the public purse strings, the economic ligature cannot be allowed to strangle any hope of growth.
While the public sector in Northern Ireland is too dominant, it is also a vital stimulus to the private sector through its massive purchasing power and contracts. If it is stripped of all but the necessary finance to continue functioning, then, inevitably, those companies dependant on public contracts will suffer. It is also important that funding for further and higher education is maintained so that young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge to gain high-value jobs.
And as Mr Clinton pointed out, it is imperative that sufficient finance is available to create new jobs. There have been repeated complaints from business that the banks - bailed out by taxpayers - are very reluctant to lend to entrepreneurs.
He also took the opportunity to suggest some private ventures which could create employment - wind energy and quality fish farming - and hailed Londonderry's gaining of the title of UK City of Culture as a tremendous opportunity for the city, and province, to revitalise its tourist industry. It was a typical American approach at a time of economic gloom - even in the bad times, opportunities exist for those with the vision and confidence to think outside the box.
Mr Clinton played a vital part in securing the peace process which has led to a transformation in Northern Ireland's political life. His very presence back in the province can only gain it positive publicity and stimulate interest in the US-Northern Ireland economic conference being held in Washington later this month and hosted by his wife, Hillary. News of American inward investment would be most welcome at this time.