Gradual good news on economy is part of improving trend

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Among the good pieces of economic news we report today, the construction sector seems at last to be heading for recovery.

The Northern Ireland Construction Bulletin shows that the latest estimates of construction output rose by six per cent in the last quarter of 2014. In other news, Northern Ireland footfall remained positive in March.

These small steps in the right direction seem to be part of an improving trend in most parts of the Province’s economy.

It is a stark contrast to the bleak days three years ago, when most parts of economic life here were in the doldrums, five years into the worst financial downturn since the war.

We cannot praise ourselves for the recovery to date. It is part of an improving trend in Britain, and indeed across the English speaking world, but one which is not matched in the Eurozone.

While the recovery in this part of the world might be down to good fortune, there are things that Stormont can do long-term to steer the economy here on to a more stable footing.

Almost everyone agrees that Northern Ireland is too reliant on the public sector. There has been widespread support across the tribal divide for powers to set our own corporation tax, which might help the move from public sector. There is also agreement that such a move will not necessarily be a panacea for our ills, but it is a measure that we must try.

It is a possible path away from dependency. It might help steer us back to the sort of economy that was once highly productive, as opposed to one that depends on public sector jobs.

This would be both good for Northern Ireland’s self esteem, and also a preventative move against long-term cuts from London that might in any event be coming.

Public sector investment was a substantial part of the construction recovery. New infrastructure both creates jobs and leaves something that is of lasting benefit.

It is a better use of public sector funds than pumping money at unreformed welfare.