Political parties must boost our economy
There are green shoots of economic recovery becoming visible in Northern Ireland. One indicator is the fact that we are around £200 a year better off because of a fall in the cost of some foodstuffs and fuel.
It is not much, but as one major supermarket is keen on saying, every little bit helps. However, this has to be tempered by the news that our disposable income after payment of essentials such as mortgage, utilities and other bills is less than half the UK average.
We already knew that our wages are lower than the UK average, so it is hardly surprising that we have less left after paying our bills, but the size of the differential is concerning. And it has to be remembered that it could be worse because our average wage levels are boosted by public sector salaries which are higher than the average in the private sector.
That is a future dilemma. If we succeed in rebalancing the economy, having less dependence on the public sector and creating more employment in the private sector, we may actually drive average wage levels down unless the private-sector jobs are of higher value than many that currently exist.
The economy is obviously a very important issue and one which will play a big part in the electoral battles in other parts of the UK. Our politicians however will not face the same level of scrutiny as their counterparts across the water. Even though the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is now almost an irrelevance, it will continue to feature in both council and European elections here.
The battle here will be along the traditional orange and green lines and many of the old myths will be dusted down and aired again to whip up support within the respective communities.
Given that all the parties at Stormont have some influence on how the economy performs, we should be insisting that they give us their blueprints for putting more money in our pockets. We are to an extent the poor region of the UK and the politicians must be held accountable in part for that.