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CBI Director-General Richard Lambert says 2009 a year for strong business leadership

CBI director-general Richard Lambert has urged business leaders to seize opportunities presented by direct government intervention in the working of the economy by forming a clear agenda for how best to work with these new political relationships.

"What kind of economy do we actually want the UK to have in five or ten years’ time? What are we going to need to do in order to be competitive – when it comes to education, tax, energy security, the environment, infrastructure and a host of other vital issues?

"2009 is going to be a year for strong business leadership. The challenges of the recession are obvious. But there are going to be opportunities out there as well, along with a set of broader issues that effective business leaders will want to tackle," said Lambert, in a New Year message.

"Economic conditions have deteriorated so rapidly in the past few months that many businesses have had a struggle just to keep up with what’s been going on. For some, the short term battle for survival will now be all that matters. But for most business leaders, there will be important choices to be made in the months ahead, between the need to conserve resources over the short term and the opportunity to build up a stronger position to benefit from the recovery when it comes.

"Businesses are also going to have to deal with a broader set of stakeholders in the year ahead. Across the developed world, the credit crunch has driven governments to intervene much more directly in the way the economy works, and the UK is no exception. Our Government has already acquired a significant shareholding in the banking sector, and is likely to go further in the coming months as its uses taxpayers’ money to get credit flowing around the economy once more.

"So business leaders are going to need a clear agenda for how best to work with these new political relationships. And they are also going to have to develop an exit strategy in order to get the private sector back in control of its own destiny when normal times return.

"What kind of economy do we actually want the UK to have in five or ten years’ time? What are we going to need to do in order to be competitive – when it comes to education, tax, energy security, the environment, infrastructure and a host of other vital issues?

"With these questions in mind, politicians of every stripe are beginning to sketch out big and challenging ideas about a more activist approach to industrial policy in the years ahead. It’s going to be very important for business to join in this debate, and to set out its own ideas of the best way forward.

"These arguments are just too important to let go by default," said Lambert.

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