It’s not clear whether the old Chinese adage, ‘May you live in interesting times’, is a curse or a proverb but, either way, an interesting year lies ahead for Belfast. Readers can certainly expect to be buffeted by the headwinds of a turbulent economy over the next 12 months.
Jobless levels seem certain to rise — with our youth being disproportionately affected — as more companies up sticks and move off-shore or simply pull down the shutters.
A double-dip recession, once unimaginable, now seems inevitable as the longed-for local economic recovery remains elusive.
But with adversity and economic crisis comes the opportunity for our local politicians to prove themselves. With Britain in crisis, it’s likely that Mr Cameron will have little interest and less cash to spare for the citizens of Northern Ireland. Which means the folk on the hill and in the Dome of Delight will have to show their mettle.
There have been some hopeful signs: finance minister Sammy Wilson has wrung more rates from the super-stores while the tourism minister Arlene Foster has bet big on the £100m Titanic Building. Moreover, Belfast City Council is promising to take the wraps off the biggest investment package seen in the city for a century — a veritable Marshall Plan for Belfast which should attract private sector investment, provide much-needed work for the construction industry and revamp the city.
Those bold steps will not avert threatened cutbacks in public services at a time when it is becoming increasingly more difficult for ordinary families to make ends meet. However, they do show the type of confidence and can-do the city sorely needs if it is to battle its way out of recession.
Belfast has been through ‘interesting times’ in the past and emerged stronger than ever. Let that be our prayer for the year ahead as well.