Some features of today's British life

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ECONOMY

From 1981 to 1989 the British economy experienced eight years of sustained growth at the annual average rate over 3%. However, subsequently Britain and other major industrialized nations were severely affected by recession. In Britain growth slowed to 0.6% in 1990, and in 1991 gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 2.3%. GDP fell in 1992 as a whole by 0.4%, but it rose slightly in the second half of the year. The recovery strengthened during the first part of 1993; with GDP in the second quarter being 2% higher than a year earlier; the European Commission expected Britain to be the fastest growing of all major European economies in 1993 and1994.

Recent indications that the recovery is under may include:

an increase in manufacturing output;

a steady upward trend in retail sales;

increases in new car registrations;

record levels of exports;

increased business and consumer confidence; and

signs of greater activity in the housing market.

The Governments policy is to ensure sustainable economic growth through low inflation and sound public finances. The Governments economic policy is set in the context of a medium-term financial strategy, which is revived each year. Within this strategy, monetary and fiscal policies are designed to defeat inflation. Short-term interest rates remain the essential instrument of monetary policy.

Macroeconomic policy is directed towards keeping down the rate of inflation as the basis for sustainable growth, while micro-economic policies seek to improve the working of markets and encourage enterprise, efficiency and flexibility through measures such as privatization, deregulation and tax reforms.

The economy is now benefiting from substantially lower interest rates. In September 1993 base interest rates were at 6%. They had been cut by 9 percentage points since October 1990, and were at their lowest since 1977.

INDUSTRY

Private enterprises generate over three-quarters of total domestic income. Since 1979 the Government has privatized 46 major businesses and reduced the state-owned sector of industry by about two-thirds. The Government is taking measures to cut unnecessary regulations imposed on business, and runs a number of schemes which provide direct assistance or advice to small and medium-sized businesses.

In some sectors a small number of large companies and their subsidiaries are responsible for a substantial proportion of total production, notably in the vehicle, aerospace and transport equipment industries. Private enterprises account for the greater part of activity in the agricultural, manufacturing, construction, distributive, financial and miscellaneous service sectors. The private sector contributed 75% of total domestic final expenditure in 1992, general government 24 % and public corporations 1%.

About 250 British industrial companies in the latest reporting period each had an annual turnover of more than £500 million. The annual turnover of the biggest company, British Petroleum, makes it the llth largest industrial grouping in the world and the second largest in Europe. Five British firms are among the top 25 European Community companies.

FINANCE

The service industries, which include finance, retailing, tourism and business services, contribute about 65% of gross domestic product and over 70% of employment. Britain is responsible for some 10% of the worlds exports of services; overseas earnings from services amounted to 30% of the value of exports of manufactures in 1992. The number of employees in services rose from over 13 million in 1982 to 15.5 million by the end of 1992, much of the rise being accounted for by growth in parttime (principally female) employment.

Average real disposable income per head increased by nearly three-quarters between 1971 and 1990 and this was reflected in a rise in consumer spending of financial, personal and leisure services and on the maintenance and repair of consumer durables. Demand for British travel, hotel and catering services rose as real incomes in Britain and other countries increased. The spread of home ownership, particularly during the 1980s, increased demand for legal and state agency services.

: 8/05/2007