Sir John Rose, the Chairman of Rolls Royce, on the economy

This is a quotation from Sir John Rose, the Chairman of Rolls Royce, which is something that should be considered in light of the US budget debates.

We must be realistic about the state of the UK economy. A rebalancing is necessary and there will be no quick fix to restoring public finances to some sort of sustainable balance.

To draw an analogy, if the UK was a business, the shareholders would be asking serious questions. The current model appears to be that we can grow our business by growing overhead, by applying better terms and conditions to support functions than to wealth creators, and by paying dividends out of borrowings not all of which are recognised on the balance sheet.

We are also asked to believe that service levels will inevitably suffer if the costs of delivery are reduced. This need not be the case. As any business will confirm, service levels will reflect prioritisation, proper definition of desired outcomes, concentration on reducing waste and investment in productivity.

In the UK, the debate needs to focus on how to make the pie bigger, rather than how it is sliced. We must concentrate on creating an environment where the enablers of wealth creation, which government can influence, are world class. In defining the right policies, there are many examples against which we can assess ourselves, but we must measure honestly and then take the necessary actions to be competitive. Importantly, there must be the will to apply policy consistently and over the long term.

If we get wealth creation right, distribution and consumption will follow. It cannot be done in the reverse order.

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