Thursday, 15 January 2009

Getting the message across...

My colleague David Frost at the British Chambers of Commerce has certainly stirred up a hornets nest with his description of the outcome of BCCs most recent quarterly survey. Frightening, awful were just a couple of the adjectives he used. Personally I am concerned about the seemingly endless queue of people lining up to tell us how bad things are but, nonetheless, can understand where he is coming from. Things are certainly not as we would wish them to be.

I would prefer it if we all drew breath and allowed time for some of the measures that have been put in place to work. The reality of course is that until the banks start doing business very little is likely to change but, at least, the announcement by Lord Mandelson that there will be further funding to support lending should help. Following fast on David’s words I am sure he will claim that the BCC were instrumental in speeding up this process and, in fairness, so would I. Indeed it is correct to say that the British Chambers have led the debate throughout and I wouldn’t mind a small wager that they will be the first to call the recovery too.

Balancing the requirements to encourage government action and the need to protect business interests is not always an easy trick but the BCC has generally trod the line with a high level of expertise.

Looking forward it seems to me that one of the key messages arising from the problems in the economy is to learn the lessons. The current economic conditions not only cause difficulties but also identify, and amplify, some of our existing shortcomings.

As we fall down the OECD skills tables one cannot help thinking that if we are to continue attracting high levels of inward investment we will have to raise the level, and relevance, of the skills we seek to give our workforce. Despite announcements of redundancies there are still vacancies but sadly many require skills that we are short of, skills to support the engineering, electronics and pharmaceutical industries to name but a few.

If we are looking for some good news it is that we have many innovative and creative businesses with growth potential, we simply need to find more effective means of supporting them.