Economists with the truth

I went to an interesting meeting last night. Two out of the three speakers were economists. It is often said that there are as many opinions of economic issues as there are economists. There were two opinions of the economy from the two speakers, but really it was all about a difference in attitude.

The first speaker, a lady, did not want to be attributed so we will only say that she in connected to a well-known Old Lady who lives in Threadneedle Street. Her view of the current economic climate in the South East is that things haven’t been so bad, the economy is on the up and eventually everything will be all right even though the UK economy has contracted by 6.1%

All fine and dandy. She says she speaks to lots of businesses north of the Thames and that is her general impression. Funnily enough I also speak to a lot of businesses in my local area, which is specifically South Essex, so much smaller. I get a somewhat less optimistic view of the situation as it is.

I could hardly wait to be disappointed by the second economist, Mark Pragnell of the Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership (TGSEP) . However I was pleasantly surprised both by his honesty and his attitude. Yes, the economy had contracted by 6.1%. He thought that South Essex had been very badly hit by losses of jobs both in London and locally, possibly worse than in the South East as a whole. He might have had a vested in talking up his view as the Old Lady’s representative had, but he didn’t. What he did say that there was a huge opportunity for growth in the area, that we had a skilled workforce ready to go, and we had attractive lower housing costs and we have industrial units and warehouses which can be rented very cheaply (poor landlords) but potentially profitable for many.

I hope I have not misquoted too much. I was not able to make notes, but my general impression after hearing the first speaker was that I was now listening to someone saying “yes, things have really been bad, but we have the chance to really make hay and bounce back quickly.” Really it is all about attitude and realism and not towing the line of officialdom notwithstanding that TGSEP is very much an institution of local government in the area. Well done, Mark!

If we wait for our businesses to improve they may eventually, but it is likely they won’t. If we are positive, proactive, make plans and exploit the opportunities that are out there our future is in our hands and we know we are not hostages to fortune. Seize the day! Carpe diem.

© Jon Stow 2010

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