Prediction for 2011 - I predict a riot

By Dr Patrick Tissington on Dec 17, 10 12:00 AM in Enterprise

So, it comes to that time of year when we review what has happened over the past 12 months and make resolutions for the future. Before we get to New Year Resolutions, I thought I'd take the arrogant step of making some predictions for 2011. I am going to remind myself of the old adage "prediction is difficult - especially about the future". But, I have had the crystal ball out and this is what it is telling me.

Whilst I am focussed on business, the critical thing for business is actually going to be government and the economy. The latter is pretty obvious - we are being advised by some wise economists (quiet at the back!) that the austerity measures being adopted by the government are quite a gamble and might be catastrophic for the economy and therefore business. Or they might not. But why do I separate this from the issue of Government?

I have seen a depressing number of occasions where government departments have reneged on their contracts on the grounds of the cutbacks. Now I am completely unsure about how rife this is statistically but indications from my personal network is this far from uncommon. Perhaps most worryingly it appears most rife where the businesses concerned would struggle to fight these breaches of contract legally but which would suffer the most from the loss of revenue.

I was recently subject to such a default myself and, without giving too much away, was given some pretty unpleasant alternatives to consider when I tried to fight it. I am of the view that a contract is a contract and just because one party is the government, does not make it any less valid nor any less open to challenge in the courts if necessary. My concern is not for the anger I felt at having to back down (OK, it might have some bearing on my publicising this issue in this blog!) but whether this is a strategy - endorsed officially by politicians or not - which will continue. Because it seems to me that it is indicative of some government departments appearing to think that they are above the law. I am quite sure that if this were the case, in the fullness of time they will be disabused of this notion by the courts but, in the process, the basic tenet of trust in government would be badly eroded. And trust is a vital element of our society so that we (most of us anyway) trust that our legal system is basically sound and that government departments will follow the law. But we have to have a fundamental belief that things will be run decently. But when some contracts are torn up, others are not and questions arise about how the choice is made between honouring one contract and not the other. This is a rife breeding ground for corruption and potentially a dramatic erosion in confidence in the whole edifice of government.

But maybe I am being paranoid. Perhaps I am feeling revolt in the air with the riots, defacing of monuments in London and the jostling of MPs by angry members of the public. Perhaps this is just me and a few of my contacts falling foul of some civil servants who have been over-enthusiastic in their implementation of the cost cutting strategy. But it might be indicative of something worse.

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