LONDON–How bad are things in Britain?
Not long ago, the Church of England put out two new prayers to provide solace for those who have been laid off. “Hear me as I cry out in confusion” is a line from the “Prayer on Being Made Redundant” offered to the country’s two million unemployed.
Even the Girl Guides have published advice on how to cope with the economic situation: “Don’t rely on the bank of mum and dad – everyone’s cutting costs,” was one tip.
And, desperate to move autos, an online car broker based in Essex recently stunned the industry with this extraordinary offer: Buy one Dodge Avenger for $36,000 (U.S.) – and get another one free.
With once high-flying bankers now beholden to government for survival, house prices in free fall and the traditional economic mainstay of trade in decline, the British are facing what some call the worst business conditions in a century.
“This didn’t come out of the blue, it was certainly on the radar screen,” observes Thomas Mayer, Deutsche Bank’s chief European economist in London.
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“We envisaged all sorts of corrections. We worried about a dollar crash, we worried about housing market crashes, we even worried about the overvaluation of credit.
“But that everything would come together to create a perfect storm, I think very few people had that on their screen.”
And there’s no clear idea how, or when, the situation will right itself.
The country slipped into a recession in the fourth quarter of 2008, with the economy contracting by 1.6 per cent, the worst performance in nearly three decades.