19/11/2013 Spotlight


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!



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


have. Welcome to Belfast. Belfast City


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


wonderful. The Christmas shopping period is the most important is


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


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


lord mayor is hosting an informal meeting with conference organisers.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and capitalise on the feel-good factor.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


out. We could never have afforded to buy


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


ladder. Housing prices have readjusted and it is more


straightforward now. In commercial property, even refinancing your


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


are not so lucky. Auctions, which include many repossessed


properties, are now commonplace. Behind the bargain offers our


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


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


banks. His firm is currently handling cases totalling a quarter


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


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


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


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


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


of recession. Court orders threatening repossession are up on


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


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


years, Northern Ireland was no different from anywhere else in


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


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


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


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


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


are not seeing the improvement in people's pockets.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


market supposedly on the up may hold for him.


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


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


surprise of the recession was that unemployment did not rise even


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


organisers say are on offer. Both the Westminster and Stormont


government hope a recovering job market will help take people off


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


government that intends to produce its public spending and Northern


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


for business, strengthening the foundations for peace and stability


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


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


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


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


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


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


violent protests over a flag. Try explaining that the foreign


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


last trade. There was widespread disruption.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


time for business was up everybody including the two black Christmases


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


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


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


major demonstration for the nurse leaders have pleaded for them to


reconsider and have called for political leadership will stop I


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


cannot influence interest rates or inflation or the minimum wage and


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


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


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


political stability but we are now well into devolution. Many


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


for next year but for many more after that.


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