The Economy of Great Britain — страница 2

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of 'Thatcherism' was the privatisation of previously wholly or partly government-owned enterprises. Indeed, other countries, for example Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Malaysia and West Germany, followed the British example. The government believed that privatisa­tion would increase efficiency, reduce government borrowing, increase economic freedom, and encourage wide share ownership. By 1990 20 per cent of the adult population were share owners, a higher proportion than in any other Western industrialised country. There was no question of taking these enterprises back into public ownership, even by a Labour government. Despite such changes, however, by 1990 Britain's economic problems seemed as difficult as ever. The government found that reducing public expenditure was far

harder than expected and that by 1990 it still consumed about the same proportion of the GNP as it had ten years earlier. Inflation, temporarily controlled, rose to over 10 per cent and was only checked from rising further by high interest rotes which also had the side effect of discouraging economic growth. In spite of reducing the power or the trade unions, wage demands (most notably senior management salaries) rose faster than prices, indicating that a free labour market did not necessarily solve the wages problem. By 1990 the manufacturing Industry had barely recovered from the major shrinkage in the early 1980s. It was more efficient. but in the meantime Britain's share of world trade In manufactured goods had shrunk from 8 per cent in 1979 to 6.5 per cent ten years later.

Britain's balance of payments was unhealthy too. In 1985 it had enjoyed a small surplus of £3.5 billion, but in 1990 this had changed to a deficit of £20.4 billion. Many small businesses fail to survive, mainly as a result of poor management, but also because, compared with almost every other European Community member, Britain offers the least encouraging conditions. But such small businesses are important not only because large businesses grow from small ones, hut also because over half the new jobs in Britain are created by firms employing fewer than 100 staff. It is not as if Britain is without industrial strength. It is one of the world leaders in the production of microprocessors. Without greater investment and government encouragement it is doubtful whether

Britain will hold on to its lead in this area. However, it has already led to the creation of 'hi-tech' industries in three main areas, west of London along the M4 motorway or 'Golden Corridor', the lowlands between Edinburgh and Dundee, nicknamed 'Silicon Glen', and the area between London and Cambridge. In the mid 1980s Silicon Glen was producing 70 per cent of British silicon wafers containing the microchips essential for the new information technology- The Cambridge Science Park, symbolised by its Modernist Schlumberger Building, is the flagship of hi-tech Britain. Beginning in 1969, by 1986 the Park contained 322 hi-tech companies. In the words of a consultant, "The Cambridge phenomenon... represents one of the very few spontaneous growth centres in a national economy

that has been depressed for all of a decade."