By Sir Roger Carr, CBI President
World leaders are at Camp David. The tension in the eurozone is reaching another crescendo, writes Sir Roger Carr. Britain needs a way out of the gathering economic storm, and that way is growth.
The Sunday Times set the scene last week. It highlighted ways to tackle important regulation and tax issues and warned against falling into the trap of seeing yesterday’s ideas as the solution to tomorrow’s problems.
It reinforced the message to ministers that the courage to be imaginative in thought and vigorous in implementation is the only route to prosperity.
In Whitehall and in boardrooms, the increasing demands of investors and the public seeking a short-term resolution to a long-term, international economic problem are felt. No wonder, therefore, that isolated spats break out between hard-working businessmen and hard-pressed politicians, where each look to the other to do more to solve the problem of growth.
Conflict adds little, but constructive challenge may be the spur that capitalises on the natural advantages that we enjoy – in time zone and language – and delivers the growth we need.
Most business leaders recognise the link between deficit reduction and growth. The government’s determination to reduce the deficit has secured the support of markets and achieved bond yields of 1.83%, where France is at 2.87%, Italy at 5.98% and Spain, more worryingly, at 6.33%.
This policy has provided a competitive edge, delivering low borrowing costs at home and facilitating competitive currency rates to assist exporting abroad.
We now have an engaged Foreign & Commonwealth Office, offering ambassadors with a commercial cutting edge to blend with old-fashioned charm.
There is equally no doubt that while the coalition budget may not have received universal support, it was clearly pro-enterprise.
Resetting the dial on both corporate and personal tax was an important step on the road to showing the world that Britain is a place that welcomes investment and rewards success. It was a signpost pointing to a country open for business.
But as the clouds darken over Europe, our economic salvation requires greater determination, quicker implementation and more innovation than ever before – from both government and business.
The coalition cannot and must not relax pace, seek to micro-manage business through inappropriate regulation, or believe that promises made equate to the job done.
For politicians, the urgency of reducing the regulatory burden, initiating infrastructure development, clarifying our energy policies and ensuring our borders are both welcoming and efficient has never been greater.
The problem of our overloaded airports in the southeast must not be kicked into the long grass, just as the delivery of rail improvements or new sources of energy must not fall foul of prolonged planning processes.
Financing growth ambitions for small and medium-sized companies must be viewed as a commercial imperative rather than an optional extra.
Industry too can never forget that every troubled country is focused on its own recovery. It is a corporate battlefield that will test the mettle of all contestants and where only the fittest and most determined will survive.
Now, more than ever, we have to earn our way in the world, be smart enough to know what we’re good at, brave enough to reach out to new markets, bright enough to develop new products and driven enough to beat all comers.
As we increase our demands on government to improve the climate in which we conduct our business, so must we increase both the standards by which we operate and the efforts to deliver the goods. Only by doing both will business be a valued and valuable member of our society.
The diamond jubilee and the Olympics give us the chance to showcase our strengths, win new friends and lead the export charge into the high-growth new markets that British business can and must conquer. It is up to us – government, shareholders, businessmen and women – to make it happen. It is our collective responsibility.
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