Thursday, December 24, 2009

Farewell, then, the noughties... what's 2010 got in store?

Well, this is probably my last post of not just the year, but a whole decade. And that gives us quite a lot to look back on; here’s a list from off the top of my head. They’re largely negative, but that’s only because it’s bad things which make the news…

  • the biggest debt pile in history
  • a Labour administration that oddly turned out to be neither pro-union nor pro-business
  • the real rise of India and especially China; with Brazil hot on their heels
  • a truly globalised economy; but with associated penalties to pay in food miles and climate change
  • the internet explosion – even your mum shops online
  • layers of ownership by multinationals – much UK infrastructure is foreign-owned; or supported by sovereign wealth funds
  • we still don’t seem to manufacture very much
  • Mr Brown sold your gold and regrets it

So, where do we stand today? I have a few predictions to make; so let’s see how many come true…

  • The recession may have ‘officially’ ended; but its effects will last a very long time. Productivity is already looking up; but unemployment will continue to rise into the third quarter of 2010, and stay high for much longer than expected.
  • Taxes will rise permanently; whoever is in power. However, I predict a Conservative win at the general election (which I think will be in March or April); and David Cameron will keep the 50% tax rate and other punitive rates created by Gordon Brown.
  • Expect the idea of a Tobin Tax on financial market transactions to gain support. Expect the bankers’ bonus hoo-hah to die down.
  • Business will finally be appreciated as the engine room of the economy – and small business the quickest win of all. Expect to see fairly innovative approaches to getting people into work and business; remember, paying people to stay on the dole is the worst result of all for our limping economy.
  • A cheaper pound also supports our export markets. This is a once-in-an-economic-cycle chance to reinvest in manufacturing and exporting from our industrial heartlands. I would like to see our manufacturing base increase.
  • Dumb businesses will fail. I have spent a long time working in the internet sector, and I have lost count of the number of fly-by-night propositions which have come and gone. Some have stayed and succeeded through luck alone. The great Warren Buffett said “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked”; and the tide is now definitiely out. There are too many life-coaches, too many Facebook Apps and all the rest of it. In Mr Buffett’s brutal ocean, it’s time for the skinny-dippers to go!
  • …but there’s hope for even the skinny-dippers. As I said early last year, we have the most mobile workforce ever; with access to more employment information than ever; with better access to training, further education and reskilling than ever. It’s never a great time to change careers, but it’s certainly never been more of an option.
  • Britain will continue to rediscover saving. The obsessively consumer society is gone (thank goodness). I hope we’ll remember that life doesn’t just revolve around having a new plasma screen. We’re already saving more than we ever did in the past 20 years, and I think that’s going to continue.

So there it is – find this post again at the end of next year, and see whether I was talking sense – or letting the tide go out along with my Speedos. [NB: That was irony. I promise, I have never, ever, worn Speedos...] May I wish you the very finest compliments of the season; a few days off with friends and family, and every success in 2010.


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