Leading business expert René Carayol and Financial Times journalist Stefan Stern offered differing points of view about the recovery, the challenges for 2010, how to position business to take advantage of opportunities and the importance of cautious optimism.
Stern believes that the recession was worse than we thought and stated that 2010 would be difficult. This theory appears to be backed up by the view of the Treasury who predict that Chancellor Alistair Darling will say that the economy performed worse than expected in his pre-Budget report.
"Employment wasn't as gloomy as we first thought, however," Stern said. "Firms were taking measures [still hiring] to be ready for the upturn." However, the major worry concerns youth unemployment which now stands at nearly 20%.
Stern was pessimistic about the early years coming out of recession, telling the audience of more than 500 callers that "Huge potential vulnerabilities remain - there's the danger of businesses getting up off their sickbed too early,"
However, Ian Stuart emphasised that banks were open for business and that smart businesses were definitely getting the loans. Carayol told the audience that he has been travelling around the UK with Barclays for its 'Turning the Corner' events and said that he had noticed that the situation was different in each region.
Carayol emphasised that firms should stay optimistic and talk to the banks earlier rather than later. "Every business will get the recovery it deserves. A recession is harsh on poorly-run businesses and generous on good businesses.
"Unfortunately, badly-run businesses are still being found out. Now might be a good time for reinvention, recalibration. The business plans you made two years' ago won't work today."
One thing that might hold up a recovery was pointed out by a caller from the construction industry who warned that until next year's General Election, public projects in particular would be put on hold. "The last thing we want to happen is for everything to stop moving," agreed Carayol.
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