19/11/2013 Spotlight


19/11/2013

Hard-hitting investigations. After six years of decline, figures suggest that the NI economy is improving. But are the dark days of recession really behind us?


Similar Content

Browse content similar to 19/11/2013. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

It has been a bleak economic winter. But now, six years on, are things in

:00:09.:00:18.

Northern Ireland finally brightening up? It is brilliant. In employment

:00:19.:00:28.

is down and exports are rising. We have got biscuits in Las Vegas.

:00:29.:00:31.

Northern Ireland companies can export. If the recession is over,

:00:32.:00:38.

why doesn't it feel like it? The disposable income has been disposed

:00:39.:00:46.

of. It is a fragile recovery that can be spoiled by our problems. The

:00:47.:00:59.

issue with political instability and the flags is the biggest problem I

:01:00.:01:02.

have. Welcome to Belfast. Belfast City

:01:03.:01:28.

Hall gets ready to switch on the Christmas lights. I think it will be

:01:29.:01:35.

wonderful. The Christmas shopping period is the most important is

:01:36.:01:40.

wonderful. The Christmas shopping of the year for many businesses. We

:01:41.:01:46.

consider this very much to be a community... Inside City Hall, the

:01:47.:01:52.

lord mayor is hosting an informal meeting with conference organisers.

:01:53.:02:01.

I believe we are coming out of recession and we have to build

:02:02.:02:12.

confidence. These people create buzz and when one group comes, they say

:02:13.:02:17.

to another group that they have been here. Outside of these Christmas

:02:18.:02:21.

shoppers a sign of a tentative recovery? Yes, it is only

:02:22.:02:26.

mid-November, but I want to know if people are planning to spend more

:02:27.:02:31.

over this festive period? I did not spend much last year, but I have a

:02:32.:02:37.

job now. About the same. A little bit more, I think. I was made

:02:38.:02:46.

redundant there, so it will be tight coming up to Christmas.

:02:47.:02:52.

This week, Belfast City Council announced a 275,000 Christmas

:02:53.:03:01.

promotional campaign. The hope is that it will boost trade in the city

:03:02.:03:06.

and capitalise on the feel-good factor.

:03:07.:03:22.

After six years of decline, this Christmas may mark the beginning of

:03:23.:03:30.

the recovery. But what will it feel like as we see welcome to the new

:03:31.:03:37.

economy? Property prices have fallen by more than half since their peak.

:03:38.:03:46.

By some measure, ours is the worst property crash in the world. But

:03:47.:03:51.

every cloud has a silver lining. This woman is getting keys to her

:03:52.:03:57.

new home. A house that was beyond her reach a few years ago is now

:03:58.:04:02.

affordable. What are your plans for in here? We are going to pull this

:04:03.:04:08.

out. We could never have afforded to buy

:04:09.:04:15.

a property back then. You could extend out the back. This

:04:16.:04:25.

is about ?100,000. At the height, it must have been ?200,000 at least.

:04:26.:04:31.

Across the road, one house was valued at over ?230,000. It would

:04:32.:04:40.

not have been affordable even if banks gave a mortgage without a

:04:41.:04:49.

deposit. Is the market finally bouncing back? I last visited this

:04:50.:04:54.

estate agent in the midst of our property crash. Do you still have

:04:55.:04:59.

the bill that the guys bring when they cut a deal? -- ring. Yes, and

:05:00.:05:09.

it is run more frequently than it was a few years ago, but not as

:05:10.:05:16.

often as I would like to hear it. Towards 2006 and 2007, it was

:05:17.:05:19.

incredibly difficult for first-time buyers to get on the housing

:05:20.:05:23.

ladder. Housing prices have readjusted and it is more

:05:24.:05:28.

straightforward now. In commercial property, even refinancing your

:05:29.:05:38.

property can be extremely difficult. This modest upturn in activity is

:05:39.:05:42.

limited to certain sectors and places. I am on my way to Dromore.

:05:43.:05:56.

This house was on the market for several years. If we had put it on

:05:57.:06:05.

earlier, it might have gone quite quickly. But our timing was wrong.

:06:06.:06:11.

They had reduced the asking price by almost half, down from almost ?1

:06:12.:06:16.

million. It has been two years since we have met the owners here. But now

:06:17.:06:26.

we are back to meet the people who live here now. Hello. Since my last

:06:27.:06:40.

visit, they have dropped the asking price by even more. You are still

:06:41.:06:51.

here? Yes, two years on, still trying to sell the house. It is

:06:52.:06:56.

still on the market. We have dropped it a couple of times since we last

:06:57.:07:01.

spoke. We have had a couple of offers as well, one of which we

:07:02.:07:06.

accepted, but that fell through. They are still looking for that

:07:07.:07:11.

elusive buyer. The couple are aware that they are playing a long game.

:07:12.:07:21.

If we had bought this house in 2006, we probably would not be doing

:07:22.:07:26.

this interview because we would have been so depressed. Luckily, we

:07:27.:07:32.

bought this in 2004, so the price has gone up and come back down

:07:33.:07:36.

again. We have tried to stay realistic all the way through and,

:07:37.:07:42.

hopefully, things have turned the corner and we are hopeful of selling

:07:43.:07:50.

soon. I sense they have taken a philosophical approach to their

:07:51.:07:56.

experiences in the property crash. But they can afford to wait. Others

:07:57.:08:02.

are not so lucky. Auctions, which include many repossessed

:08:03.:08:09.

properties, are now commonplace. Behind the bargain offers our

:08:10.:08:16.

individual stories of misery. This man advises people from all walks of

:08:17.:08:22.

life on managing their debt. He negotiates on their behalf with the

:08:23.:08:26.

banks. His firm is currently handling cases totalling a quarter

:08:27.:08:32.

of ?1 billion of debt. There are three sets of people. Those who are

:08:33.:08:38.

doing quite well, but most people in the country would fall into the next

:08:39.:08:43.

two categories, those that are running out of money and those that

:08:44.:08:49.

have run out of money. If you look at that analysis, that does not mean

:08:50.:08:56.

we are running out of research -- that does not mean we are moving out

:08:57.:09:00.

of recession. Court orders threatening repossession are up on

:09:01.:09:04.

the same period last year. This personal debt mountain may be our

:09:05.:09:12.

guest economic -- our biggest economic hurdle. Through the good

:09:13.:09:19.

years, Northern Ireland was no different from anywhere else in

:09:20.:09:25.

terms of personal debt, credit. That is having a significant effect on R4

:09:26.:09:30.

salts and their ability to spend. -- on our households. But we had such a

:09:31.:09:45.

big boom here, surely that must have a negative effect? I do not know

:09:46.:09:52.

whether it is worse or better in Northern Ireland. We are seeing

:09:53.:09:58.

unemployment fall, this is a cavity and business activity increasing, we

:09:59.:10:08.

are not seeing the improvement in people's pockets.

:10:09.:10:17.

The trend we are seeing, once people have done and bought all they need,

:10:18.:10:25.

there is nothing left. Disposable income is disposed of. For the last

:10:26.:10:35.

few years, the cost of living has been going up faster than wages.

:10:36.:10:40.

This feedback was set up recently. The organisation that runs it now

:10:41.:10:45.

has 11 in Northern Ireland. This woman and her volunteers have been

:10:46.:10:51.

gathering food parcels for those in need. We anticipate Christmas and

:10:52.:10:56.

the winter period, that will still continue. Many attending are reliant

:10:57.:11:02.

on benefits which have faced cuts. Others do have jobs, but do not have

:11:03.:11:15.

enough to buy the basics. A month later a man I had seen in a

:11:16.:11:17.

supermarket turned up. later a man I had seen in a

:11:18.:11:29.

case that people are coming to you because the confidence is there? In

:11:30.:11:36.

some ways, yes. The recovery is not enough to raise living standards.

:11:37.:11:42.

The recovery here is expected to be slower than in any other part of the

:11:43.:11:46.

UK. Everything in economic is relative. If our economy is moving

:11:47.:11:52.

forwards slowly and everywhere else is moving faster, we are getting

:11:53.:11:57.

relatively poorer. Recession was bad, recovery may not be merry.

:11:58.:12:06.

Those green shoots of recovery are sometimes hard to spot. It is a cold

:12:07.:12:10.

Thursday morning on this community allotment. Darren works part-time as

:12:11.:12:25.

an assistant here. I am an my wage and it is low. You have to budget

:12:26.:12:33.

your money properly. The garden is a funded initiative in an area

:12:34.:12:38.

considered to be among the top 10% most deprived in Northern Ireland.

:12:39.:12:43.

Darren is now known as the working poor. The minimum wage is shocking.

:12:44.:12:55.

Anybody on the minimum wage will tell you that they are working to

:12:56.:13:07.

survive full stop the minimum wage is diabolical. You are going to

:13:08.:13:13.

struggle. What about friends of yours who may be an benefit. Do they

:13:14.:13:21.

appear to be the ones making the sensible choice? They get their rent

:13:22.:13:28.

paid for them. They do get more money. That is their perspective in

:13:29.:13:35.

life. I would rather go out and crashed. At least then you know you

:13:36.:13:42.

can go home at the end of the day and you have done a good bit of

:13:43.:13:47.

work. Continued funding for Darren 's position is not guaranteed. You

:13:48.:13:52.

may lose his job after Christmas was up the is keen to see what a job

:13:53.:13:57.

market supposedly on the up may hold for him.

:13:58.:14:05.

That is a flop plan inside. -- a floor plan inside. Employers have

:14:06.:14:17.

come to Belfast. Those looking for work have followed was at the big

:14:18.:14:21.

surprise of the recession was that unemployment did not rise even

:14:22.:14:26.

further. Many people took pay cuts and to ours rather than lose their

:14:27.:14:32.

jobs. Unemployment when measured against the dollar Q is falling. But

:14:33.:14:38.

not as fast as elsewhere for that we have the highest rate in the UK. The

:14:39.:14:44.

picture is especially bleak if you are part of the younger generation

:14:45.:14:49.

full stop a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds are unemployed and that

:14:50.:14:55.

is up over the last year. Someone at the age of 16 is not going to have

:14:56.:15:00.

the experience. That is so much to do. I recently finished a Masters

:15:01.:15:08.

degree. I find there are few opportunities have there. But there

:15:09.:15:15.

are jobs to be found even in difficult times. This is the iconic

:15:16.:15:23.

route master bus, a success story built in Ballymena. It has attracted

:15:24.:15:33.

admirers as for its innovation to grow in difficult times. We have

:15:34.:15:40.

been fortunate to be awarded a contract to build 600 of these.

:15:41.:15:44.

been fortunate to be awarded a workers will be busy link these over

:15:45.:15:53.

the next few years. Overall, employment within our group of

:15:54.:15:56.

companies is at words of 1700 people now. At the main Assembly hall,

:15:57.:16:02.

about 600 of those putting the buses together in the final stages. This

:16:03.:16:08.

firm added another 700 people to the workforce during the recession. The

:16:09.:16:11.

key to growth was targeting overseas markets. We cannot take this model

:16:12.:16:19.

everywhere in the world. We know that. Others, we have to adapt the

:16:20.:16:28.

business from. We are shipping buses out in kit form and assembling them

:16:29.:16:30.

locally in places like Hong Kong. The route master has become

:16:31.:16:40.

something of an emblem for Northern Ireland and UK exports. You do not

:16:41.:16:49.

have to be a big player to do this. For some exporters, small is

:16:50.:16:53.

beautiful. This man spotted a gap in the market for a Luton three

:16:54.:16:58.

escapes. He's cells more in America than at home. The Internet has made

:16:59.:17:07.

the world a smaller place. You can speak to some of the N America just

:17:08.:17:13.

as handy as speaking to someone in Northern Ireland. The assumption is

:17:14.:17:27.

explored is for the big guys. You have the market in mainland Europe.

:17:28.:17:36.

I have biscuits in Las Vegas. It is no big deal. Northern Ireland can

:17:37.:17:41.

export. It is about tenacity and entered an airship. -- in the

:17:42.:17:55.

premiership. Sales growth like this is driving our recovery. Back at the

:17:56.:18:02.

jobs there, Darren is looking at some of the 1100 positions

:18:03.:18:08.

organisers say are on offer. Both the Westminster and Stormont

:18:09.:18:13.

government hope a recovering job market will help take people off

:18:14.:18:26.

benefits. Any sort of work. I am working at the minute. Others were

:18:27.:18:37.

also hoping to improve their wages. He may have 30 hours when weak and

:18:38.:18:41.

ten the next. It is not very dependable. Some experts are worried

:18:42.:18:47.

that so many find themselves in work but still struggling to make ends

:18:48.:19:00.

meet. That is concern about people at the sharp end of the wage scheme.

:19:01.:19:07.

One in four people are getting less than what is deemed to be the living

:19:08.:19:12.

wage. Going out to work means you do not have guaranteed

:19:13.:19:13.

wage. Going out to work means you do got up if the hours and less than

:19:14.:19:17.

what you need to have a big -- decent standard of living, then that

:19:18.:19:25.

is not making work pay. Neil Gibson argues that wages need to be

:19:26.:19:29.

competitive with risk doing more harm than good. We need to be

:19:30.:19:36.

realistic about what we think is a living wage for people here in

:19:37.:19:39.

Northern Ireland. If we look at people around the world who I can --

:19:40.:19:44.

producing goods, the living wage we are looking at is many multiples of

:19:45.:19:48.

what they can hope to achieve full stop the focus needs to be an

:19:49.:19:53.

driving down the costs of the things be at insurance, energy and

:19:54.:20:01.

property. There are people who will compete for as that for our jobs. --

:20:02.:20:13.

for our jobs. Political and business leaders came to a new tourist

:20:14.:20:18.

exhibition, Titanic Belfast. They both here for a conference on the

:20:19.:20:23.

direction of our economy. Investment is a priority for a Westminster

:20:24.:20:28.

government that intends to produce its public spending and Northern

:20:29.:20:32.

Ireland and lessen some of the burden on the UK taxpayer will stop

:20:33.:20:37.

David Cameron is banging the drum for tourism and investment here.

:20:38.:20:43.

This is a stunning exhibition, the biggest of its kind anywhere in the

:20:44.:20:48.

world and it added ?27 million to the Northern Ireland economy in its

:20:49.:20:55.

first year alone. Tourism brings outside money into the economy and

:20:56.:20:59.

Northern Ireland needs to attract as much as it can weather. This is a

:21:00.:21:12.

significant outpost for one of the largest law firms in the world. They

:21:13.:21:14.

have been hiding people in recent years. It is home town for many but

:21:15.:21:24.

others are just arriving. Our law firm is working all the time on an

:21:25.:21:31.

operation here in Belfast as well as elsewhere. We are in the middle of

:21:32.:22:01.

the night shift here this white-collar shift work is a glimpse

:22:02.:22:04.

of what the economy can look like here. With less public money around,

:22:05.:22:11.

the Giants are needed to drive the economy. A new Northern Ireland open

:22:12.:22:21.

for business, strengthening the foundations for peace and stability

:22:22.:22:26.

and prosperity. A new Northern Ireland determined to be defined not

:22:27.:22:32.

by its divided past by -- but by its shared future. Multi-million pound

:22:33.:22:39.

initiatives to boost tourism and the economy was suggest the future can

:22:40.:22:47.

be bright. But standing in its way, there's no doubt Northern Ireland

:22:48.:22:56.

can survive its path. This was the image of Northern Ireland broadcast

:22:57.:23:03.

to the world last year. Belfast city centre brought to a standstill by

:23:04.:23:09.

violent protests over a flag. Try explaining that the foreign

:23:10.:23:13.

investors. Open for business customer you have got to be joking.

:23:14.:23:21.

We have the" about the message we send to the world. This is where we

:23:22.:23:31.

make the software. He built and says software is to retailers. He has

:23:32.:23:41.

global customers and investors. They do not care that he is in Belfast

:23:42.:23:50.

and less Belfast becomes the story. We had investors from all over the

:23:51.:23:57.

world on a conference call and they could hear silence in the

:23:58.:24:00.

background. I tried not to mention it. -- sirens in the background.

:24:01.:24:09.

They will only take so much before they say it cannot work and it will

:24:10.:24:15.

go elsewhere. The flag protests are estimated to have cost the city in

:24:16.:24:24.

last trade. There was widespread disruption.

:24:25.:24:30.

This year, many are hoping to make up for lost earnings. Restaurant

:24:31.:24:41.

owner in the Dean has big plans. The business next door has moved out and

:24:42.:24:44.

he has spotted an opportunity for expansion. He has a string of

:24:45.:24:51.

restaurants in the first and implies 130 people. What the plan is is to

:24:52.:25:03.

cut a hole somewhere in this wall. He has raised the stakes on his

:25:04.:25:06.

Belfast death. His latest expansion will take place in the shadow of the

:25:07.:25:11.

first City Hall, the scene of last Christmas 's mayhem. It was a brutal

:25:12.:25:18.

time for business was up everybody will want it to go out to

:25:19.:25:25.

time for business was up everybody including the two black Christmases

:25:26.:25:34.

but we lost out on that. We cannot control the security situation. That

:25:35.:25:40.

is the biggest nightmare. Next month sees the first anniversary of the

:25:41.:25:42.

council vote on the flag. Those behind the protests have organised a

:25:43.:25:49.

major demonstration for the nurse leaders have pleaded for them to

:25:50.:25:54.

reconsider and have called for political leadership will stop I

:25:55.:25:59.

will not tell anybody if they have something that they are angry about

:26:00.:26:05.

that they should not notice. But about avoided altogether better Mac

:26:06.:26:26.

-- altogether? I would never say to anybody they should not protest.

:26:27.:26:32.

They have a right to protest. But to reflect on the time and place and

:26:33.:26:37.

nature of the protest because we cannot and do another Christmas in

:26:38.:26:42.

the centre of Belfast the way we had last year. At the leading political

:26:43.:26:53.

parties, if you are in the business community, you may understand there

:26:54.:27:00.

are precious but mean you cannot change the rate automatically. You

:27:01.:27:05.

cannot influence interest rates or inflation or the minimum wage and

:27:06.:27:10.

you cannot change most taxes but one thing they think you can influence

:27:11.:27:15.

it political stability was up on that measure, the leading parties in

:27:16.:27:21.

government here have failed? I do not accept that we have failed on

:27:22.:27:26.

political stability but we are now well into devolution. Many

:27:27.:27:36.

businesses that may have gone to the wall are still operating in Northern

:27:37.:27:41.

Ireland today. The flag issue is still a cause for concern. What

:27:42.:27:52.

about the role of politicians. The issue of political stability and

:27:53.:27:58.

what we had last year. We need to look to the future and be optimistic

:27:59.:28:08.

and positive. It is a challenge. The statistics tell us recovery is

:28:09.:28:12.

underway but will we all share the fruits of this new economy? You have

:28:13.:28:19.

to deal with things. Fingers crossed and then positive. Something

:28:20.:28:29.

positive may come out in the end. Hopefully, at some point soon,

:28:30.:28:34.

somebody will come along with the right money at the right time. We

:28:35.:28:41.

are through the worst of it. ABF is not moving as fast as we would like

:28:42.:28:45.

that it is better to be where we are today than we were a couple of years

:28:46.:28:56.

ago. We need to be careful. Try and look at things like spend and tax

:28:57.:29:04.

and do things more responsibly. This recovery will be more than just the

:29:05.:29:12.

fears about the crash and the future. We feel poorer because we

:29:13.:29:21.

are poorer. A feel-good factor may return but it will depend on

:29:22.:29:27.

hard-fought economic growth. The Christmas many others spent this

:29:28.:29:30.

year will be a first glimpse of the shape of things to come, not just

:29:31.:29:35.

for next year but for many more after that.

:29:36.:29:37.

After six years of decline, figures suggest that the NI economy is improving. But are the dark days of recession really behind us? Jim Fitzpatrick investigates.


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS