economia's A to Z of 2012

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As the year draws to a close, economia takes time to look back at the year that was. Here's our A to Z of 2012...

We look back at a year of austerity...

A

is for… …Austerity, as the economy struggled to grow and government cuts continued to bite. It is also for Autonomy, the UK software firm at the centre of one of the year’s biggest accounting scandals, having been charged by its new owner HP of not playing straight with its books in the run up to its takeover by the US giant. A is also for Angela Merkel, who topped the inaugural economia Global Finance 50 .

B

is for… …banking reform and regulation. It’s been a momentous year in the City, with the Libor scandal and money laundering charges hitting some of the biggest players. The regulators have been playing catch-up since 2008, but are finally finding common ground globally and getting new rules and safeguards in place to prevent future problems.

C

is for… …Canada, home to Mark Carney, the surprise appointment as the next Governor of the Bank of England. The country is widely held up as a model of financial prudence and stability. Carney himself has suggested that a move away from inflation as a central bank’s key target may be an option. C is also for the Content Marketing Association, which handed two gongs to economia at its annual awards bash

D

is for… …David. The the most popular name by far for economia cover stars in 2012, with the Bank of England’s Sir David Lees BBC Children in Need’s David Ramsden and the SFO’s David Green all featured.

European flags

E

is for… …the eurozone, naturally. The single currency is seen by some as the root of all economic and financial woes and has certainly caused its share of global instability. Others see the grand experiment as the basis for greater European integration. In October experts offered their predictions as to the future of the euro. European politics was also what scuppered a potentially sensible merger between European defence business EADS and the UK’s BAe Systems.

 

F

is for… Funding for lending, the latest incarnation of the government’s attempts to boost lending to the UK’s hard-pressed SMEs. Despite offering banks access to cheap credit, the scheme had the same limited successes as the various previous schemes aimed at the same objective. A lack of demand, rather than a lack of supply was widely held up as the major problem, although plenty of SME owners pointed out that the banks were still imposing tough lending restrictions and charging them excessive amounts.

G

is for… …growth. Undoubtedly one of the most-used words of 2012, and yet with the economy teetering on the brink of a triple-dip recession, growth remained a concept that proved elusive for the coalition and for the chancellor, George Osborne, who continued to nail his colours to the mast of austerity.

H

is for… HMRC. The government’s collection agency yet again came under sustained pressure for falling service standards and for going too hard on small businesses, while letting large firms off the hook too easily. With staff numbers slashed by 10,000 and a number of senior management departures, it was left to new boss Lin Homer to sort things out. In an interview with tax faculty magazine, TAXline, she said she welcomed hearing from “critical friends”.

I

is for… IFRS. Another massive year for international accounting standards, as the debate about the importance and significance of global convergence — and whether the US would ever join up — raged on. Plenty of critics suggest that the new standards represent a shift away from taking a more careful, prudent approach. It looks as if 2013 will be just as important as the debate carries on.

J

is for… The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which offered people plenty of extra time off from work, but also potentially played havoc with the GDP and output figures. The focus on the activities of the royal family, allowed economia to take a closer look at the Queen’s accounts .

K

is for… KPMG, which made 275 members of staff redundant following a restructuring process at the Big Four firm. The accounting giant blamed an economic recovery that “failed to materialise”, but said it was confident that it was now positioned in the right place to face 2013.

George Osborne

L

is for… Life after work. Retired accountants never really seem to be retired at all. All eleven of those featured in economia’s Life after work series are fully active and engaged in their local communities. One was even preparing to volunteer as a Games Maker at London 2012 when we met him.

M

is for… Money laundering. A bad year for several of the major banks, which were forced to settle cases for manipulating Libor, also saw a number of banks previously thought to be better behaved, notably HSBC and Standard Chartered, charged with laundering.

And a mention too, for Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which took detailed (and for some observers overly partial) interest in the tax affairs of a handful of large multinational companies.

N

is for… …Nouriel Roubini, the global economist who as well as contributing to economia also headed our first Finance Twitter100.

O

is for… Omnishambles, the wonderful phrase that emerged from TV show The Thick of It, via Ed Miliband’s use of it in the House of Commons, it quickly emerged as the consensus view of possibly the most unsuccessful Budget in recent memory, after which George Osborne was forced into a series of humiliating policy U-turns. He appeared to regain some momentum with a more assured Autumn Statement.

P

is for… Plan B. Despite the tumult and repeated indications that the government’s plan for growth via austerity wasn’t working, George Osborne steadfastly refused to entertain the notion of a Plan B. The closest we got was a possibility of thinking about looking into a Plan A+. It is also for the Public Accounts Committee

Q

is for… Qatar, whose sovereign wealth fund, given the task of moving the country beyond its reliance on oil, started to flex its investment muscle in 2012, notably in the deal between Glencore and Xstrata.

R

is for… Regulation. The relentless drive to reduce business red tape continued to obsess those running small firms and those running BIS. Whether much really changed this year is up for debate and two of the longest finance bills on record don’t point to much simplification. And R is also for Sir Richard Branson. The legendary entrepreneur who graced the cover of economia’s November enterprise special issue  and explained how he felt that entrepreneurs really could help the world back into growth.

S

is for… Starbucks. The ubiquitous high-street coffee chain was one of a number of large multinationals singled out for the name and shame treatment over alleged corporation tax avoidance by the PAC. It subsequently offered to pay £10m a year in donations to HMRC. S is also for the Squeezed Middle, economia campaign, supported by Lloyds Bank, to raise awareness of the plight of the UK’s medium-sized businesses. And, of course, it is also for Sevendays, our weekly email newsletter. November's economia

T

is for… Tax. Has there ever been a year when tax news was front page news to the extent it was this year? First the Times ran its series of exposés on individuals who had been assisted by lawyers and accountants so they didn’t have to pay quite as much tax as they might and then the PAC and others picked up on the corporate tax scandals. In between ICAEW chief executive, Michael Izza, took a hard line on the need for accountants to recognise where the line of acceptable behaviour lies.

U

is for… Political Unions. The Scottish National Party forced an agreement for a 2014 referendum on the future of the UK from David Cameron and then growing hostility towards the European Union allowed anti-European party UKip to take advantage of flagging Lib Dem support and perform well at recent by-elections. The future shape of both unions is uncertain.

V

is for… …adding value. As accountants saw potential business stripped away as audit thresholds were raised for small firms (as part of that drive to reduce red tape for SMEs), accountants serving smaller firms will need to find new ways to add value to their clients’ businesses.

W

is for… Will King, founder of King of Shaves, the ultimate challenger brand and another entrepreneur who contributed to our enterprise issue in November. He told economia that we are too prescriptive in our approach to education and that we educate self-belief and ambition out of our children.

X

is for… Xstrata, one half of the biggest M&A story of the year, and whose merger with Glencore rumbled on and off for several months, until eventually getting done. It was one of only a few megadeals done in a year when according to some measures M&A activity dropped by over 60%.

Y

is for … …Yves Hayaux Du Tilly, chairman of the Mexican Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain, who as well as having one of the best names in economia this year, highlighted the significance of the UK and its relationship with Europe. “I see a new era where Mexican and Latin American businesses take advantage of the opportunities from Europe,” he said. “A link between Mexico and the UK, with the UK as the gateway to Europe and Mexico as the gateway to Latin America, would certainly appeal.”

Z

is for… … Zombie companies, zombie debt and a zombie economy. With interest rates at an all-time low, some economists have begun to express fears that this recession has seen an unhealthy number of businesses hanging on, where in previous recessions they would have failed. Thus the necessary clearing out of dead wood hasn’t happened, which may well mean the economy takes longer to recover.


Richard Cree is editor of economia
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  • Comment by Anonymous

    Good lord this really is of no value...