Column Eight: If a thing is worth doing . . .

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The Independent Online
Most people would talk up their job spec in the middle of a recession, but economists seem bent on self-destruction. A study published by the National Institute Economic Review on the accuracy of its forecasts finds that they were 'generally unbiased and weakly efficient (weakly?) and clearly contain information significant for prediction'.

It continues gamely: 'It is still possible to conclude that economic forecasting is a worthwhile activity, although the evidence for this is not as strong as it was 10 years ago and the experience of forecasting different variables is far from uniform.' How to argue yourself out of a job.

Australians will no doubt bristle, but they do have the unfortunate reputation of being a country of layabouts. But a survey in the Far Eastern Economic Review reveals that Australians actually spend as many hours working (about 9.3 a day) as those Sons of Toil themselves, the Japanese.

On the other hand, the sample consisted of 3,000 Review subscribers. You may, therefore, feel it is more likely to be representative of the Japanese than the Australian populace.

With the greenback in intensive care at Federal Reserve Memorial Hospital, US dollar currency account holders are looking at a bleak Christmas. National Westminster Bank is offering one saver, who has about dollars 2,800 in his US dollar account, a mingy 1/8 per cent in interest.

His branch manager attempts an explanation. 'Holders of currency accounts are speculators and therefore the accounts bear notional interest only.' Small comfort.

Tucked into County NatWest's gripping compendium of building statistics is a curious table measuring 'bathroom activity'. This 'activity' apparently fell by 11.3 per cent in 1991.

Thames and Chiltern was the first tourist board to fail when it ceased trading last month owing pounds 300,000. On Thursday a creditors' meeting is being held in the 'Hayloft' at The Spread Eagle Hotel. It sounds like the perfect venue for a 'Carry On' film but is, in fact, a hostelry in Thame, near Oxford. It's encouraging to see that the defunct board is still trying to boost local business.

Shares in Geest, the banana company, fell 17p to 321p yesterday as traders got the jitters about possible damage to its plantations from Hurricane Andrew. For the record, the bananas are safe unless Andrew takes a sharp left at the lights in downtown Miami. The nearest Geest plantation to the hurricane's path lies 500 miles south, in Grenada.

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