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How to Survive the Meltdown

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Eamonn Walsh | 18:56 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

The world economy appears to be in meltdown, the euro is in turmoil and the economic future looks bleak. But does it have to be this bad?Panorama investigates how Britain plc could survive the crisis.

Reporter Adam Shaw explores the potential for growth away from Europe in the fast-growing economies of places like Brazil, China and India.

He also asks what our government needs to do to chart a path to a brighter future.

We welcome your views on this week's programme. Please follow us on Twitter @BBCPanorama or use this forum to give your thoughts on The How to Survive the Meltdown.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    An interesting program if a bit shallow in places. Its sad to see Panorama dumbing down with 'plate making' to make a point. Still the sentiment sits well. The European Union was developed in a different time when the world was a different and less open place and while I am for open trade agreements I don't believe for one minute that because we are not fiscally tied or bound by every agreement that Europe makes up it is suddenly going to stop doing business with us.

    Consumers and businesses are driven my value and will seek it actively and in an age of digital technologies this has become even easier to achieve. If we have products or services that offer value we will be able to sell them.

    This brings us onto the bigger question. What kind of country do we want and what type of jobs should we be trying to create. The problem with many service industry jobs is that they are very easy to replicate somewhere else - cost of entry to use old marketing parlance is low therefore the jobs will always be at risk and there will be drive to lower and lower costs - a race for the bottom which is not good for the business or the employee.

    The decision not to award the train contract in the UK is frankly bizarre. They claim best value but this doesn't take into account the other benefits (literally) and costs that moving the contract abroad. To name but a few:

    1. Tooling costs a fortune and therefore if you lose the capability to manufacture it is lost often forever
    2. 1200 people + losing their job plus three times that in the community. Cost of benefits, social unrest etc
    3. Loss of skills. People move on and rarely move back. Again capability lost.
    4. A signal to both our own citizens and the businesses of the world. Come get our contracts because we are too stupid to work out what Germany has - entirely free markets don't work. The banks know this which is why they 'create' markets then can manipulate, The Germans know this (and even the cathedral of capitalism the USA) and protect high value jobs and skills.

    The best businesses don't work like this any more. They consider the lifetime value of investments, future costs as well as current ones. Untrained politicians with a dogma to defend make poor guardians of the national interest!

    For some reason our party politics still seems stuck in the 70's. Both sides are to blame. When will you realize there is no right and left any more. The world has become a much more transparent place. It was right to defend our position in Europe and not get sucked into their mistakes, its wrong for the other side to spread fear that the world is ending and it is wrong not to support UK manufacturing jobs because of some left over Tory view that markets work. Banks Duh.

    The final point the program made about us needing to look for new markets is right. Not because Europe is dying - Germany is one of the strongest industrial countries in the world and Europe will recover. (Change is a natural cycle in business and economics and yes the west will get poorer compared to the rest of the world but that's because of where we started. I prefer to think of the rest of the world getting richer rather than us getting poorer which is actually the truth - although not if you read the Mail on Sunday et al). We have to move further afield precisely because Germany dominates the European industrial scene and has so many natural advantages that it will continue to do so. Trading with the BRICS and others is a natural progression, will spread our bets and even the playing fields. Some markets such as India we have a natural advantage in because of the close links the countries have and the active Indian descended community we have in the UK, which we should be exploiting for all our benefits.

    Our business https://econsultancy.com has realized this and we are now trading globally. Only a tiny fraction of our overseas business is from Europe. Instead having looked around we saw the Middle East, Asia and the Americas as markets with more potential and we now have offices in all 3 and plans for more. Why? Because there is a need in these markets for skilled people and great products and although you wouldn't believe it if you read some papers a great respect for the quality of UK work and workers.

    So lets stop the party political rubbish (which if you speak with most politicians or their close circle in private they often don't believe and are sound biting for the press of their party), brush ourselves down, realize we are grown ups and start working together to put things right. Easier said than done but stopping the hot air, dogmatic posturing, ill informed and malicious press reporting would at least clear some time for some proper work.

  • Comment number 3.

    For once a reasonably balanced programme, but the was nothing in it that I haven't myself been saying for the last 15 -20 years.

    I struggle to see how anyone kept a straight face when Ed Balls was commenting on how little a government that has been in for five minutes has done to promote business in China (for example) when he was a member of a government that sat on its hands for 13 years.

  • Comment number 4.

    I also think Craig's points are very valid.

    Without a large manufacturing base, the skills pool dries up. The likelyhood of the development of standout talent is diminished.

    We have had enough of all our economic eggs being in one (badly designed and ill advised) basket.

  • Comment number 5.

    Before Britain joined the EEC we were already part of a common market. The Commonwealth was and is a worldwide organisation. Here in Britain it has effectively been side lined.

    It's membership should have given us an advantage in India.

  • Comment number 6.

    The program made the point that only 10% of the economy is based on manufacturing.

    I have two points here.

    1) Prior to the credit crisis that 10% accounted for over 40% of national income. Highlighting very effectively the importance of manufacturing.

    2) In statements like this what is meant by the term economy? Nearly 50% of the economy, according to statements like this, is in the public sector. Yet the public sector has no DIRECT input on the national purse. The public sector sells no goods or services overseas to bring in money so that we buy or foreign made consumer goods.

    Despite what Evan Davis thinks the business model of the last 20 years has been deeply flawed. It is long past time for change.

  • Comment number 7.

    There is a factual error in this programme - an important one that keeps being made - it claims British taxpayers money was used to bailout the Eurozone. This is patently not true - only Eurozone countries were involved. The only thing the British did was provide a loan, at high payback rates, to Ireland.

    This misleading error should be corrected.

  • Comment number 8.

    Feuerbach - if they were wrong they weren't the only ones. There are many sites that state that the 12.5 billion was paid to bail out Ireland, Greece and Portugal. Others state that it was simply part of a Eurozone bail out.

    Britains contributions to the IMF may also be used to support the Eurozone though this is denied by the government.

    As it stands however Britain supports the Eurozone by its contributions to the EU (or do you contend that the Eurozone is self funded). Not that anyone can get a look at EU accounts (not ones that anyone is willing to validate).

  • Comment number 9.

    Peter, I can assure you the Tory Government did not allow the Uk to contribute to bailouts - only a loan to Ireland. The IMF give money all over the world, and Uk contributions were not used in the Eurozone. Britains contributions to the EU have nothing to do with Eurozone bailouts which came almost entirely from Germany and France. This is well known in Academic sector that I work in - the information you are getting online is deliberately misleading and its tiring to see it spread by Euroskeptics.

  • Comment number 10.

    EU funds are used to finance the Eurozone (I did not in this instance mention bail out). The BBC Eurosceptic.

    It is largely irrelevant. I am not an academic, I live in the real world. I have gone from being Pro Europe to Anti Europe (not sceptical at all).

    It would have been good to prepare for exit, but you can't have everything.

  • Comment number 11.

    An OK program but pretty tepid and missing out a lot of important topics. In particular I'd have liked to have seen something about the UK's research base. It's one of the strongest in the world and should be focused on as a future driver of our economy. We have a clear adavantage compared with asian nations in terms of innovation and creative science and technology. The challenge is to translate our ideas into businesses. The Technology Strategy Board is currently putting £100m into 'Catapult Centres' aimed at this very thing in six areas of technology, but to be honest it's a very small investment when one considers the impact that is possible (each technology targeted is addressing a >£10bn industry). As always, we're trying to do it on the cheap. And in the longer term its largely our university infrastructure that will determine the level of new technology innovation in the UK - but we're stripping them down to the bone.

  • Comment number 12.

    I was stunned at the Surviving the Meltdown doco. I didn't pick up the slightest sense or irony that the UK had been part of a protectionist block since '73, and now that it and its trading bedmates are a little tired it expects the rest of world to happily trade with you.
    Other countries, like NZ, have been trading freely and honestly for over 25 years.
    The UK made its bed nearly 40 years ago. However, the more countries that trade freeely, the better off we'll all be. Join the club - bit late though pomms. Interested in some butter?

  • Comment number 13.

    The BRIC countries are not NEW markets-they have already taken off. There is West Africa (especially Nigeria and Ghana) which looks set to repeat the 'Brazil story' in the next decade. These same BRIC countries see that, and are building ties (and more importantly, trust) with Africa. Well If the UK traded fairly and openly with its former colonies now, maybe it actually can have a monopoly on these markets within a decade.

  • Comment number 14.

    What a sad humiliating story about the UK manufacturing sector. Only 20 years ago the UK was still capable to set the world quality standards in every industry… I remember in the 90s a British car was a much more prestigious brand than a German one. I understand when a government stops subsidising unprofitable businesses but I don’t understand why the UK government could not place a train order with a national manufacture - not a German one. Probably local costs could be higher (protectionism backfired?) but I believe in this particular situation and these particular times the UK public money should have been invested into the UK manufacture. They bailed out the UK banks for billions of public money but they did not find money to keep 400 local train manufacturing workers in their jobs. I am very sorry for Paul Smith – a skilled young family man out of job whilst a couple of days earlier on the very same BBC you showed a report about German BMW doing so much to embrace ageing workforce to keep the elderly in their jobs as long as possible – how come the Germans spend so much money to look after their workers to make them work longer and at the same time they keep production costs lower than in the UK? My guess is because it is more profitable to keep the skilled workforce busy rather than to send them live off humiliating unemployment benefits. Another guess is that the German government has always placed its manufacturing orders exclusively with German manufacturers.

  • Comment number 15.

    why does it take hours for iplayer to work?
    2hrs and 10 mins and still no sign.
    Obviously the BBC must be asleep and what a waste of licence fee money!!!!!!


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