Western region shows positive signs of growth for 2022, says Western Development Commission CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin
The WDC’s Policy Analysis Team has released the first timely indicators report and accompanying commentary for 2022 indicating a positive outlook.
Estimates of more sustainable public finances, strong economic growth and falling unemployment offer clear signs of encouragement.
Specifically, the western region is showing signs of regional recovery and resilience. For example, the combined share of the region’s labor force receiving the PUP, wage subsidy or on the living register fell to 21.2% at the end of October, from 33% a year ago and 50% in May 2020. .
Estimates of economic performance will depend on the trajectory of several risks facing the economy over the next 12 months, as outlined in the report.
The first risk is the development of the pandemic and the related public health restrictions. There are clear and encouraging signs in this regard given the removal of virtually all public health restrictions at the end of January.
The second risk is inflation following an upward revision of inflation expectations to 4% for 2022.
Another risk area relates to Brexit and the ongoing issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol and the potential triggering of Article 16. Trade disruptions are a particular concern for the Western region given the relatively high level of exposure employment in sectors affected by Brexit.
As we emerge from public health restrictions, we can begin to look to the future of regional development.
Dr Luke McGrath, WDC economist and author of the report, said: “To maximize future opportunities and support effective regional development policy, there needs to be a focus on reducing regional infrastructure deficits and broader policies to supporting innovation and the 3 Es (education, employment and business). Building on regional comparative advantage can foster long-term economic development while contributing to national economic growth.
WDC CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin said, “Looking ahead, WDC has identified three areas of regional strength that can create long-term sustainable competitive advantage; Life sciences including MedTech, artificial intelligence (AI) data and analytics (especially smart mobility) and creative industries and creative economy.
“More generally, the transition to remote working has led many people to look west to the quality of life and cost of living opportunities in the west and northwest, and the development of the national network of connected hubs can support this and help drive economic activity in cities and towns into the future.