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No time for uncertainty

Queen Elizabeth couldn't do it; President Obama couldn't do it; and soothing noises from Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan couldn't do it. Instead, gloom deepened this month.

We cannot be too surprised at the results of the latest consumer confidence survey. While the visits were cheering, the economic news in June was almost universally bad. The Greek crisis steadily worsened, the global economy slipped back, and fears of an interest rate increase rose.

Those fears were more or less confirmed yesterday. With prices rising in a booming German economy, the president of the European Central Bank signalled a rate increase -- probably a quarter of a per cent -- next month.

The survey suggests that people are more worried about the future than their current situation. If they thought their present levels of disposable income would hold, they might be ready to heed Mr Noonan's call for retail therapy -- if not for themselves, then for the good of the public finances. But people do not believe their incomes have bottomed, and they are right. As well as interest rates, they know the household charge is coming, and the promise by Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore of no income tax rises or welfare cuts lacks credibility.

Too often "confidence" is seen as something to do with mood, and the general tone of public debate. But it is much more to do with people analysing the situation and reacting accordingly. Sometimes they may over-react, but they need evidence, not cheery words, to make them change their minds.

There is not much the Government can do to ease the coming burdens. It might even help to spell out in detail where those burdens will fall. Relying on vague rhetoric could well make people more uncertain rather than less.