It’s A Hard Knock Life For UK Businesses
British Institutions have been shaken in the past few years. Although they’re still powerful, they no longer appear untouchable. Look in the newspapers today and you will see the story of Chris Huhne, a former Minister who faces jail time for lying about breaking the speed limit. Even such a small act of dishonesty has consequences.
For the connection between accountability and business, see banking. The recent announcements made by Britain’s doll-faced Chancellor George Osborne are #toughonbanking. The Royal Bank of Scotland must pay for its Libor misdemeanours (in which it fixed interest rates illegally), he says. He has declared too that banks using their retail businesses to guarantee their investment arms will be broken up by the Bank of England.
Until this week, talk has been of a triple dip recession. But a new business confidence survey now predicts the UK economy will expand by 0.4% in the first quarter of 2013. Not all newspapers are carrying the story however, suggesting there is some scepticism. We have not escaped the triple dip for certain.
Michael Izza, the chief executive of ICAEW, who carried out the survey, says economic expansion is the only road to recovery. If the goal is to grow the economy, people say, the government should not be embracing austerity. Infrastructure projects and other decisive, progressive investment is what austerity-sceptics clamour for.
In the private sector, where profit is more or less the sole motivation, this is prevalent. Staff numbers at small businesses grew 1% last year. In 2013 there is expected to be a 1.5% growth. The government presses on with its program of austerity. Meanwhile it has its fingers crossed that the private sector will power the recovery.
Shouldn’t the government be leading the way? Setting the example for the private sector to follow? Well, not necessarily. In democratic cultures the public sector often follows the private rather than trailblazes. In more autocratic systems the state can be as decisive as it wants.
What do businesses want?
Across the water, Al Gore is claiming US democracy has been ‘hacked’ by big business. It has been “taken over… operated for purposes other than which it was intended.” For example, corporations are able to donate uncapped amounts to political campaigns under the First Amendment. Although freedom of speech surely applies to humans, somehow the profit-making conceits we call corporations are also entitled to self-expression. Meanwhile, he points at the internet as an instrument of democracy. This is where people can gather to lobby government, where the ideas are formed by the crowd.
Businesses are always trying to cut costs, recession or not. Research by trade association BSA The Software Alliance shows one in five small businesses use illegal software for business purposes. Essentially this means using pay-to-use software without paying. Is this breaking the law, or is it simply a fledgling organisation using available tools to express its capitalist ambitions?
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