NI’s curate egg economy…

The Observer notes that low unemployment, high consumer spending and rising house prices have all brought a feeling of well being to the NI economy. However, in the FT, John Murray Brown looks at some of the a underlying structural problems that remain to be tackled:

Pat McArdle, chief economist at Ulster Bank, now part of Royal Bank of Scotland, told this year’s annual CBI Northern Ireland lunch that the region looked set to underperform the UK as a whole for the first time for several years, growing at rates closer to the eurozone.

According to some measures, the Northern Ireland economy faces considerable structural issues. The public sector still accounts for close to 30 per cent of employment, a much larger proportion than other UK regions. On the other hand, statistics suggest Northern Ireland consumers spend more on entertainment than most other regions, apart from London and the south-east.

The economy is £22bn in size, only £14bn of which is raised locally by taxes. The government’s budgetary subvention is currently worth around £8bn, which is more than any other region receives. The economy has changed dramatically in recent years. Unemployment is at record lows at 4.7 per cent, although it is likely to edge up with redundancies announced at Adria, a lingerie manufacturer.