CBI Director-General, Digby Jones yesterday claimed to set the record straight on the state of British business in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States.
Speaking at the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Bournemouth he said, “We are living in uncertain times, but you won’t hear me talking about general recession. The stock markets around the world have tumbled and continue to be fragile but we must resist the ‘doom and gloom scenario’ as there is still so little official data. My discussions with CBI members around the country are already providing some consistent patterns.
“The mood in the business community is anxious rather than gloomy. With certain obvious exceptions in specific sectors, companies are reporting that the direct impact on activity has so far been very limited. However, they remain anxious about the future – the uncertainties surrounding the timing and scale of US retaliation and the possibility of further terrorist attacks.
“What is frustrating for business is the ‘financial take’ on the situation that appears in all the headlines. I have many members whose share price is tumbling while the basic fundamentals of their businesses remain strong.”
He said, “There is concern that the terrorist attacks will impact on their margins. Some firms fear that there could be a general increase in insurance premiums. Others fear increased energy costs, should any conflict lead to an escalation in oil prices. Exporters and importers are also worried about disruption and increased costs of airfreight as the majority is carried on passenger planes. Business sentiment remains resilient and across the country firms are calling for the need to pursue a ‘business as normal’ policy.”
Digby Jones acknowledged that sectors such as the airlines, travel and tourism and business conferences have been directly affected by recent events. However, even before the attacks, they had suffered from the global slowdown in business activity and investment. “Tourism – at this time of year, especially business tourism – has been hit by a double whammy – foot and mouth and now the terrible events of 11 September. Government must help in this area; a more benign view taken by regulators to facilitate consolidation would be a welcome start.” He said.