Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Economy - What It Means For the Courier

Gloomy decades

Nobody in the courier business needs to be reminded that the nation's (and global) economic troubles started way back at the tail end of 2007. Over the years since, things have staggered from an occasional flicker-of-hope to new despair. Economies around the globe have stagnated with tiny growth rates or even drifted back into double-dip recessions. There appears to be little prospect of an end in sight and even the more optimistic forecasters (and there are precious few of those) see this continuing for perhaps several more years. Historians and economists are still arguing about definitions and measures, but many people are now saying that this series of economic disasters and stagnation are as bad as the 1930s, even if their social effects are not as severe - at least so far.

What's causing it?

Economists and politicians work themselves into a frenzy trying to say what exactly is to blame and the usual suspects are regularly wheeled out including:

• the Euro;
• the banking crisis;
• the commercial and personal debt crises;
• other political parties;
• banks not lending to businesses.

These 'experts' haven't yet got around to blaming astrological configurations but no doubt they'll get around to it in due course! Yet what is rarely if ever discussed is just how big a factor a total loss of business and social/consumer confidence is now playing in the continuing economic stagnation. It is possible to find some voices in business who are now starting to sound a little bit more positive about the future over, say, the next 1-3 years - though they are still more than offset by those who are negative or at best, guardedly neutral.

Unfortunately, the position is even worse when speaking to consumers and 'the public'.

Here confidence about the future of the economy continues to bump-along at rock bottom. Given that ultimately it is the consumer, here and overseas, that drives the economy, extreme pessimism in this sector is arguably the biggest factor that is suppressing economic growth.

What can be done?

Much intellectual effort and money continues to be invested in macro-economic attempts to "get things going". Examples include quantitative easing and business investment plans. Laudable as those are, they may be doing little or nothing for consumer confidence. Knowing that a given bank's balance sheet now looks healthier following an injection of government cash is hardly likely to get Mr or Mrs Average clicking their heels with joy and rushing out to buy that new car or washing machine!

In fact, the dire and gloomy warnings from government about "yet more hard times to come" coupled with tax increases, benefit reductions, a very shaky housing market and ever-increasing job insecurity, are all likely to push people even more towards battening down the storm hatches and putting their wallets/purses away.

That has a direct negative effect on everything - including the humble and hard-working courier. What is needed to re-ignite the economy may be rather less macro-economic theory and manipulation but more injection of optimism (and cash) into the sharp end of the economy - the consumer. That would then benefit everybody across the board - including those in the business of courier work.

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 2,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.

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