This morning, at approximately 07.12, I listened to Steven Major, Head of Fixed Income at HSBC, patiently explain to the interviewer, Sarah Montague, as if she was still in her pram, that all our worries about Greece will soon be behind us. Its financial future was secure and assured.
However, he did also admit that Greece’s debt is 120% of GDP, that the interest rate it pays on its borrowings is up to 5%, and that it is suffering 6% negative growth.
I see in today’s Times’ leading article, 20 Feb 2012, that, “the Greek economy … is now in its fifth year of recession. Output shrank by another 7 per cent in the last quarter and unemployment is more than 20 per cent. Among young people, almost one in two is out of work.”
Negative growth is, at best, a feeble euphemism which fools no-one, and at worst an insult to those who can no longer afford to buy food in Athens.
The first time I ever heard this nonsensical expression, negative growth, was at a Nielsen presentation in Newcastle, 1979. I heard the client’s senior chap in the room say that the numbers showed that the brand under Nielsen’s spotlight was demonstrating “negative growth stability”.
Later, as the Y&R agency team hung around in Newcastle’s airport, waiting for a Vickers Viscount to trundle us back to Heathrow, my boss said to me, “Business bullshit.”
Some years later, Kevin Duncan decided he had had enough of business bullshit, and started to produce books of cartoons full of idiotic nonsense which he had actually heard business people use.
You’ll be familiar with the junk-speak – “Here’s my elevator pitch. We’ll use a blue sky session to think outside the box so we can identify the low hanging fruit, and segment the market along societal allegiances…”
Why would Steven Major use the ridiculous euphemism of negative growth?
I can understand that The Emperor Hirohito wasn’t very keen on announcing that two atomic bombs had entirely erased Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the map. Consequently, he said that the war was not necessarily proceeding to Japan’s advantage, so this might be a wise moment to surrender.
In Mr Major’s case, he knows, that no matter whether or not Greece gets its €130bn bailout tonight, its membership of the Eurozone is doomed. And, if Greece decides to bail out, so can other current member countries.
What few people are admitting is that Germany is really the odd one out in the Eurozone rather than Greece. Its economy is not like any other of the Eurozone economies.
Kevin’s five little books of Business Bullshit are available from Amazon for a matter of pennies as Kindle downloads. Give yourself a treat and download all five for a measly £4.45. They are funny and deadly in equal measure.
They are also a reminder that bullshit is not good for business.