Thriving private sector needs sustained political progress
There has been so much attention paid to the Stormont politicians as they grapple with severe budget problems, that many people may have come to think that the broad financial outlook here is all doom and gloom.
However, there is more than a glimmer of light from the recent figures issued by two of our leading banks, and this may point to some realistic hope of better times to come.
The Ulster Bank, the biggest group in Northern Ireland, has posted profits of £394m for the third quarter of this year, and the indications are that it will meet its target of lending £1bn to local businesses by the end of this year.
The Ulster Bank has also announced that nine out of 10 applications for its mortgage loans are being approved.
The Danske Bank, another major player, is encouraging businesses to start borrowing again, after it recorded pre-tax profits of £81m for the first nine months of this year. It has also announced a 48% increase in its approvals for mortgage loans, and its Chief Executive Gerry Mallon says that this year has been its best so far for winning new business customers.
People have learned to be cautious about any signs of economic recovery, because of the disappointment of the false dawns of the past.
However, it would seem that this time the private sector economy is beginning to turn the corner, and to look towards better days.
Perhaps the financial log-jam really is beginning to ease, and if this is true there is also the hope that a rising tide will lift all boats, and that there are tangible signs of recovery.
There is no doubt that we need such encouragement and progress at a time when the public sector is undergoing such severe cuts. The growing success of the private sector is all the more welcome because it has taken place despite a long period of political deadlock. People might now dare to think of what the future financial prospects would be if we really had permanent peace and sustained political progress.