A Drive on the Blind Side with Honest Ed; Financial Mail

Article excerpt

Byline: WILLIAM KAY

IT must be alarming to ride in a bus and have the driver announce that he has just gone blind.

But if the British economy were a bus, with all of us as passengers, we would now be experiencing just that sense of panic.

The driver in question is Eddie George, the affable, chain-smoking governor of the Bank of England.

In a rare break with the tradition that central bankers are infallible, George has entered the confessional and admitted that he does not know where on earth we are going, economy-wise.

He said: 'We don't know precisely how fast demand is growing or is likely to grow. Nor do we know precisely how quickly and by how much demand is likely to respond to our policy actions.' And he also confesses not to know 'with any great precision' the underlying rate of change of manufacturing capacity or the natural level of unemployment.

This, remember, from the man who plays a key role in deciding how much interest we pay or earn on our loans or savings r e s p e c t i v e l y . A s leader of the Bank's monetary policy committee, he influences the living standards of nearly everyone.

Yet without regular and accurate statistics from the service industries which nowadays account for two-thirds of total output, leaving the factories lagging George complains that he cannot tell

what is happening in the economy.

Worse, he admits to being puzzled that the strong pound has not done more to dampen shop prices.

While this is good for the governor's soul, it is highly unsettling for the rest of us, especially as that committee meets this week to decide what to do next about interest rates.

Sarah Hogg - Page 10 FASHIONABLE opinion sneered at Howard Poulson last week after he was forced out of Premier Farnell, the electronic components group he effectively created, warts and all. Wrongly, I think.

OK, the US-based Premier turned out to be something of a wart, especially after Poulson overpaid for it. So Poulson is derided for his incurable optimism, and there is much pious muttering about how often hubris turns to nemesis in business.

That is to misunderstand one of the fundamental points about commerce.

Poulson's failure is the other side of the coin on which Ray Kroc, founder of the McDonald's hamburger empire, said: 'Nothing succeeds in business except persistence.' Persistence requires boundless optimism and bullheaded stub- bornness in the teeth of vicious criticism. …