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How many economists does it take?

Over the past few weeks, I've attended seminars by the renowned Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs and senior economists at UBS. Every time I pick up the paper, more and more economists are sprouting up, with diametrically opposing views on our economic direction. Why were most of them strangely silent before the credit crunch?
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Nevertheless, I’m keen to hear what they have to say. Even though IRIS is primarily a UK business, we all operate in a global economy where decisions made elsewhere do have an uncanny ability to impact us when we least expect it, particularly interest rates and inflation.

The situation in Greece is a great example. Lovely place to visit – but I would never have described the country’s infrastructure as that modern so, unless I missed a massive party, it does make you wonder where all the money went. Closer to home, Miles Templeman, director general of the IoD, deserves full credit (no pun intended) for the organisation’s recent survey highlighting the hypocrisy in which we still live – massive increases in bank profits, while six out of ten businesses are still being turned down for loans.

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Many entrepreneurs have to rely on their credit cards, with a shocking average interest rate of 18.8 per cent. It makes you wonder how this all fits with Gordon Brown’s statement in October 2008 during the first bank bailout that “the aim of the recapitalisation is to ensure the flow of money to small businesses”? Another pressure on SMEs is the increasing cost of compliance with government regulations. The question is what, practically speaking, can we do about it? Take the move to online payroll filing, for example. This is a significant change for the very small businesses and particularly poignant right now in the run up to the end of the tax year. This year, not only do SMEs lose the incentive to file online, but now they will be penalised if they don’t do it or do it incorrectly. So we’ve been doing our bit recently to help small employers, working closely with the HMRC to launch a free payroll for them to file online.  When will the government realise that its top priority should be stimulating the private sector to create future growth, particularly employment growth? We must all get behind the likes of the IoD and the Federation of Small Businesses to make sure the voices of Britain’s SMEs shout loudest.

And then maybe we won’t need quite so many economists.

Picture sourceMartin Leuw joined IRIS in 2001 and has grown it into a £120m-turnover software house with a market value of more than £500m. Read more here.

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