Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Government didnt cause the current problems but as they are in the driving seat they need to do something about it...

As yet more statistics hit the street proclaiming further economic gloom and doom some of us, me included, are inclined to scratch around for straws of comfort rather than to simply accept the implications of the evidence that some would say is staring us in the face. Burying our heads in the sand? Maybe, but on the other hand what’s to be gained from burying our heads in our hands? In any case, is relying upon these traditional indicators of financial health helpful?

In recent years, largely as a result of incredible technological changes, the world has moved on at a pace that few would have thought possible ten years ago. It was only 15 years or so ago that email was regarded with suspicion, that websites were rare in the extreme and that social media was not even a twinkle in some ‘techies’ eye. As the use of technology has become more widespread customer practice and demand has changed dramatically.

Was it only a few years ago that people maintained that internet sales wouldn’t take off claiming that before purchasing buyers would need to be able to touch and feel whatever it was they were buying. Nowadays we can reflect, not only upon how wrong they were, but also upon the wider impact of the online revolution. One could write volumes on the subject; demands for greater convenience, lower prices, that most white goods are now regarded as being disposable to name only a few of the outcomes.

Simultaneously attitudes have changed in other areas. Remember the heady days when our houses earned more than we did and, for those who had any, cash deposited in the bank grew in value with little or no effort. Those were the days when, if servicing debt became difficult, we just borrowed more; happy days, when water was cheaper than milk and diesel was cheaper than petrol. Weren’t those the days too when the experts decided that it would be more cost effective to send manufacturing processes to parts of the world where they could be carried out more cheaply while we would thrive on ‘high value’ processes alone.. What crazy times they were.

My point? Well we can bemoan rises in public borrowing, widening of the balance of payments, reduced standards in education, the wrong type of leaves on the line, and any other thing that takes your fancy, but the fact is that, unless somebody is prepared to do something as a result, such indicators are of little more than academic interest. In any case, given the way the world has changed in recent years, I would question whether the traditional indicators are as pertinent as they were in the past. The one thing I am sure of is that the time for simply sitting with our heads in our hands has long passed we need action, energy and direction leading to growth in the economy. This government didn’t cause the current problems but as they are in the driving seat they need to get on and do something about it.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The 2012 Olympics has proved that we really are ‘Great’ Britain; what we need now is to act as though we really believe it

That we live in an age of innovation is surely beyond doubt but whether we have a sense of the importance of our nations contribution or whether we have successfully adapted to the changes that have resulted, is debatable. In the politically correct world in which we live it has become unfashionable to shout about our strengths but the truth is we have a history of leading the world and, contrary to the opinion of some, we still do play a leading role.

Those of us that are of a certain age will have been brought up to regard the Industrial Revolution, which spanned the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as the defining period in the development of our modern world economy and whilst people today will, rightly, point to the fact that their peers have taken the technologies of that age to higher, and previously unimaginable, new levels it was the great British engineers of the time such as Brunel, Faraday, Babbage and Stephenson, and the visionary entrepreneurs that supported them, who led the way. Others have learnt to develop their work but it is they who laid the foundations that underpin much of that which we take for granted today.

Future generations brought up on the achievements of the likes of Zuckerberg, Gates and Jobs will probably claim that it is their achievements which are of greater importance, conveniently overlooking the fact that without the invention of the British Tim Berners Lee their products would simply not have existed, .

Actually the debate as to who is the most important, whilst interesting, is arguably fairly pointless as it ignores the fact that a great many people and organisations, working in fields such as medicine, aeronautics, electronics, bio and life sciences across the globe, have made sensational contributions to our modern world. My point is that we often forget that we are a creative nation that has much to offer, a nation that should be enormously proud of its achievements. I strongly believe that if we were to spend more time focusing on the positive we would be more likely to be successful than if, as a nation, we continue to focus on our default position of leaning toward the negative.

Clearly we face challenges, the rest of the world does too, but there is evidence to suggest that we have struggled more than most to come to terms with the demands of such a rapidly changing world. Recognition of the issues is an important starting point. Gaining an understanding of the impact is essential and a good deal more productive than navel gazing. As soon as we have recognised, and fully understood all the implications, the sooner we will be better equipped to react to the resultant range of complex issues that need addressing.

One only needs to consider the future skills people will require to understand just how complex the issues are. Arguably the range of skills required to sustain the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries were, except at the highest level of management, limited and that essentially all that was required were large numbers of people capable of repeating a limited number of easily taught skills, as a consequence, the need to educate or develop a skilled workforce was not the important priority it is today; neither were numerous social considerations that we now regard to be our basic human right.

Nobody can imagine that for a well developed nation adapting to all this change will be straightforward. Indeed, the period following the Industrial Revolution was strewn with political mistakes that had an adverse social and economic impact on a vast number of people and they had none of the challenges presented by a modern democracy. With goodwill and a positive approach we will overcome these challenges.

The 2012 Olympics has proved conclusively that we really are ‘Great’ Britain; what we need now is to act as though we really believe it. We must set aside our faux modesty and our inclination as a nation to talk ourselves down and move forward in a positive fashion. We have much to be proud of, the self flagellation must stop, we need to begin acting as though we really do believe it. After all, we can’t blame the rest of world for not treating us seriously if we fail to do so ourselves.