The world economy is built around efficiency – but is it robust enough when problems arise?

Britain is facing problems with fuel and a shortage of lorry drivers – but we are not the only country to suffer, writes Hamish McRae

Sunday 26 September 2021 17:47
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<p>Drivers have been queueing for fuel across the UK </p>

Drivers have been queueing for fuel across the UK

I am all for blaming Boris Johnson and his colleagues when one of the government’s initiatives turns out to be not quite as billed. And the fact that petrol stations are running out of fuel and some supermarket shelves are empty is in part the result of lorry drivers leaving the UK after Brexit – but only in part, for there is a dearth of drivers in Europe and America too.

In any case, to focus on politics is to miss the economics. The entire world economy is facing supply-chain problems. As a country that imports a lot of stuff, we happen to be harder hit than most. A quick round-up of the global shortages by Bloomberg shows that the price of crabmeat in Maryland has tripled, there is a six-month wait for new cars in Bucharest, there are shortages of medicines in Nairobi, queues for babies’ cots in Houston, delays in getting groceries in Sydney, and cutbacks in the production of neck and knee braces in Mexico.

But why? In three words, the answer is disruption, efficiency, and complexity.

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