The importance of being a Treasury wise woman

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The Independent Online

Economics Correspondent

One of three new members of the Treasury's panel of independent forecasters, whose names were announced yesterday, had an early lesson in the prominence the appointment can bring.

Kate Barker, chief economist at the CBI, said a further modest fall in the pound would help exporters.

Her remarks briefly sent the pound down by more than half a pfennig against the mark on a day when financial markets were nervously awaiting the US Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates.

Ms Barker and Bridget Rosewell, director of Business Strategies, an economic consultancy, are the first women to sit on the panel. The third new member is Martin Weale, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, an independent research organisation.

They join three existing advisers - City economists Tim Congdon and Gavyn Davies and Professor Patrick Minford of Liverpool University - who have already been invited to stay until the end of 1996.

The new members broaden the range of expertise on the panel. Mr Weale is an academic who has recently joined the National Institute from Cambridge University.

The two women's extensive contacts with the business world fill the gap left by the departure of Andrew Sentance, an original panel member, when he moved from the CBI to the London Business School more than a year ago.

Ms Barker said yesterday: "I hope to be able to bring a business perspective to the panel. I'm pleased to note that it will continue to work on policy issues as well as forecasts of the economy." She worked as Ford's head of economics before joining the CBI.

Ms Rosewell, a co-founder of Business Strategies and former deputy on economics at the CBI, said she would be able to make a contribution on how economic policy affects the regions. Regional forecasting is her firm's speciality.

The new members leave the panel likely to produce a wide range of views about the economy. Some of its previous eight meetings have been argumentative, with opinions ranging from Professor Minford's right-wing monetarism to departing member Professor Wynne Godley's Keynesianism.

Mr Weale said yesterday: "I think I'd see myself very much as a mainstream economist."