by RAY FLEMING
THE finance ministers of industrialised countries (the G7 group) meeting in Rome this weekend will have more than enough on their agenda as they view the bleak global economic landscape. Naturally they will want to discuss how they can take common action to minimise growing unemployment, the number of failing banks and the danger of protectionism. It would be helpful, however, if they could set aside say ten minutes to agree to try to speak with one voice on the issues they face and, in particular, not to take every opportunity to criticise the difficulties and performance of their colleagues. The comprehensive figures released on Friday by the Centre for Economic and Business Research showed that there is very little indeed to choose between the scale of the downturn in Britain, France and Germany. Because of the varying nature of their industries and economies, one country will be in greater difficulty than others in one area but in rather better shape in another. Germany, for instance, is in difficulty because of the collapse of its engineering base that was once its strength. Britain's financial services, once among the strongest in the world, are now flagging. Overall, however, the figures show that the downturn in Europe is deeper than expected and that all the major countries are in the same boat. In these circumstances the kind of sniping which President Sarkozy of France and some German ministers have indulged in is counter-productive. If the leading members of the European Union cannot refrain from questioning each other's motives what chance has the wider world of pulling together to survive this brutal recesssion?
by RAY FLEMING