Good economic news raises hopes of a prosperous 2015

Morning View
Morning View

Since the end of the boom years in 2007, it has seemed that almost everything was going wrong in the Northern Ireland economy, as seemed also to be the case in most of the western world.

House price plunges left many homeowners deep in negative equity.

Businesses went to the wall, putting many thousands of Ulster workers on the dole.

Fuel prices seemed to go only upwards, to unbearable levels.

As revenues plunged, the heavily indebted government increased our tax burden.

And, compounding the misery, the pound felt almost worthless against key currencies such as the dollar and euro.

For much of the last few years, the British traveller heading to Europe was getting not much more than parity after commission when he converted sterling into euros.

Now, suddenly, a number of things have changed.

Jobs are being created in the Province.

House prices have risen modestly, which means that people feel more affluent and will spend more, while homeowners stuck in negative equity see glimmers of hope (but, crucially, prices are still low enough to be affordable to first time buyers).

The pound has risen notably against the euro, and is back above 1.30, so that the years when holiday makers got more than 1.40 euro to their pound are not so hard to remember.

But most significantly of all, fuel prices have plummeted.

We report today on how this has made home heating so much easier for pensioners. Motorists can fill their cars for far less money than it cost them a few months ago.

Meanwhile, since the recession there have been steady strides in fuel efficiency in cars and via better home insulation. In other words, people now need less fuel in the first place, and the fuel they do have to buy costs less.

This has been a propitious economic start to 2015.