CBI president attacks 'sense of entitlement'

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The Independent Online

The president of the CBI has warned that Britons need to shed their "sense of entitlement" if the economy is to recover. Speaking at the employer body's annual conference in London, Sir Roger Carr argued that people in the UK are experiencing a "cultural cold shower" thanks to rising global competition.

"Most of us... have grown up in the West with a sense of entitlement – to jobs, opportunity, wealth," he said. "What's happening all around us is a cultural cold shower, a move from entitlement, a recognition that things have changed, nothing is by right: we have to earn our place in a vigorously competitive world as individuals and as nations."

At the conference (which was sponsored by, among others, Barclays Corporate), Sir Roger also said that the "demonisation" of sectors of industry, including banking, was doing harm to the economy. He said: "We need to encourage all those in positions of authority – government, opposition, regulators and commentators – to stop the demonisation of industry: banking, energy or defence."

Sir Roger conceded that the banks and the energy sectors need to reform. "There is more to do," he said. "The banks to lend more, particularly to small companies; the energy companies to give more in tariff transparency and customer advice".

Sir Roger also said that the Government should stick to its plan to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015. He said: "We don't want the Government to give up its resolve on financial discipline. It remains the cornerstone on which recovery can be built. It enables low interest rates to support demand at home and competitive currency rates to drive exports abroad." He added: "However chilly the wind, it remains preferable to the icy blast of a collapse in international confidence."

The CBI president also urged the government to resist "short-term populism" when dealing with industry: "By all means, punish where appropriate, legislate where necessary, criticise the shortcomings when warranted. But base these actions on an objective assessment of the country's long-term best interests, not short-term populism."

He added that ministers should not be afraid to "celebrate" successful business leaders, pointing to "the renaissance of the car industry, the achievement of aerospace, the world-class status of our IP and technology industries in the Silicon Fens."

At the same conference, David Cameron admitted that growth in the UK has been "slow" since the Coalition took power last year. "Getting debt under control is proving harder than anyone envisaged" he said.