Cutting Room

By Davis, Evan | Management Today, June 2001 | Go to article overview

Cutting Room


Davis, Evan, Management Today


Why the CBI should stay single; Guatemala bows to the dollar; power vacuum at the heart of Whitehall; talking telephone numbers again...

It's a perennial issue and one on which many MTreaders will have a view: should the two big organisations representing British business - the British Chambers of Commerce and the CBI - merge?

The two bodies have toyed with the idea for years - nervously engaging with each other, but never quite brave enough to walk down the aisle. One former director-general of the CBI told me that when he got the job his predecessor gave him a thick file and said words to this effect: 'This is the file on merging with the BCC. At some stage you will pick it up, try to move it along, and then you will pass it on to your successor in much the same way as I am passing it to you.'

Most commentators assume the two should get married, but that personalities, money and pride have got in the way, And it's true that the two often end up calling for the same thing -- lower interest rates. (Economist Geoff Dicks has dubbed them the 'whingeing acronyms'.)

But I suggest that these organisations should stay separate. What's wrong with a bit of healthy competition between them? British business is significant enough to have two representative bodies. Anyway, the CBI is primarily a big-business thing, while the BCC represents the more mid-sized firms. And the interests of the two types of company may not always match.

It's time for these institutions to throw the file away, and get on with doing their best at representing the members they have.

Glad to see Guatemala has adopted the dollar as a parallel currency to its own delightfully named unit of money, the quetzal. It has not gone as far as its neighbours, El Salvador and Ecuador, in fully dollarising but is at least halfway there. My prediction at the turn of the millennium that the world would move to fewer currencies over the next couple of decades is well on target - although the nations that have gone for the dollar so far make only a modest contribution to global GDP. But watch that Central American space for the lessons - if it works there, the trend of unilateral adoption of foreign currencies as legal tender could go far.

The big prize will be Argentina, a country that has toyed with adopting the dollar but can't quite make the leap and, indeed, seems to be moving further away from the idea as its fixed one-to-one peso-dollar exchange rate tips the economy into deeper crisis. …

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