Everything is wonderful / Everything is terrible…

That we are living through strange times will not be news to any of you. Still, it is worthwhile considering the extreme positions Northern Ireland finds itself in.

On one side we have economic hardship and food banks for some, and at nearly 30% we have the highest level of economic inactivity in the UK or Ireland. On the other side, we have full employment and massive staff shortages in many industries.

We are the lowest wage region of the UK or Ireland but on the flip side, many of us have never been richer. The pandemic meant that many of us who were still able to work as normal were able to save quite a bit as there was nothing to spend our money on.

Some people have found working from home has reduced their stress levels and they have never been fitter. On the other extreme, our Health Service is on the verge of complete collapse.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer is a saying as old as time but it is still astonishing how the richest members of society have benefited financially during the pandemic. U.S billionaires have seen their wealth surge $1.8 trillion during the pandemic, their collective fortune skyrocketing by nearly two-thirds (62 percent) from just short of $3 trillion at the start of the COVID crisis on March 18, 2020, to $4.8 trillion on August 17, 2021. We have a similar situation in the UK with total household wealth estimated to have increased
by almost £900 billion.

The government needs to be more strategic and focused on how it deals with the aftermath of the pandemic. I am sure we will all be delighted to get our free £100 high street voucher but could the money not have been better targetted at those who need it most? An additional £200 to anyone of benefits would seem to be a better use of the money.

I believe inequality is the most pressing issue in our society. It fuels division and resentment. It encourages alienation and disenfranchisement. Many of our issues are down to people feeling they do not have a role or stake in our society. A core strategy of Stormont has to been reducing inequality. Morally and economically it is the right thing to do.