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Recovery is in our own hands

THE Central Bank's vision of a return to economic growth in the second half of next year may have pleasantly startled some people, but they have to remember that one hard swallow does not a summer recovery make.

And, these days, any mention of economic green shoots comes with a host of golden caveats.

Warning number one is that the familiar old budgetary, economic and financial challenges have not gone away. The road to recovery is still going to be slow and painful.

Long before the property bubble burst and the banking system collapsed, the country had already lost whatever degree of competitiveness it once had. The key to recovery, the Central Bank reminds us, is restoration of competitiveness; the cost of professional fees, health care and insurance, utilities, and public transport are all too high and wage restraint is required across all sectors.

Nevertheless, the Central Bank anticipates gradual and modest economic recovery and, while it may be too soon to break out the celebratory cider, it tells us that, as a nation, our future is in our own hands.

Even moderately optimistic economic forecasts are to be welcomed, but not if they give rise to complacency, particularly at government level.

The Government's battle to restore the public finances to health has only begun.

If things are to get better, all wage-earning sectors have to be prepared for more sacrifice and the Government has to accept that it is going to have to make itself even more unpopular.