An end to toxic debt?

A seminar series hosted by the Management Research Centre is attracting some interesting and well-known speakers to provide expert insights into a range of business and employment issues.

Topics have included the role of a charity Chief Executive, labour markets and job insecurity and regeneration and corruption. One of the recent speakers was a leading economic commentator, Newsnight’s Paul Mason.

When you think of the global economic situation, the 1979 film Alien may not be the first thing that springs to mind. But BBC Newsnight Economics Editor Paul Mason uses the film as an analogy for the turbulence in the financial world since 2008. In a talk at the University of Wolverhampton, he likened the crisis to the scene where the alien is stabbed. Its acid blood burns through the floor of the first deck. It burns through the next floor and the question is can it be stopped before it burns through the hull and they are all killed?

For us today the acid blood is toxic debt in the economy. It has burned the financial system. Now it is hitting the real economy – output, trade. At the moment only the state is strong enough to hold the acid. Interventions such as the fiscal stimulus and bank nationalisations work to limit the destructive power of this toxic debt. But whether the state can or should be a permanent barrier is still in doubt.

Global view

Travelling all over the world for the BBC’s flagship Newsnight programme, Paul Mason can be in Ireland covering the financial crisis one day and in China speaking to officials about the country’s workforce the next. Before joining Newsnight, Paul was deputy editor of Computer Weekly, and spent a total of nine years covering business in specialist magazines and newspapers before making the move into TV.

Prior to becoming a journalist, Paul was a professional musician and lectured at Loughborough University of Technology.

Although clearly an expert in his subject, Paul admits he is not an economist.

"My career has been as a business sector journalist so I hopped from sector to sector, looking at anything from construction, social care and the digital sector to dot com industries and business computing," he says. "I joined the BBC to report on political economics and ask questions such as why people do certain things and why don’t we know anything about the Chinese workforce? In 2000, an opportunity arose to become Economics Editor and I was reluctant at first as I thought it would involve lots of press conferences, but I travel all over the world, even covering shootings in Croxteth, and I was in America when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection."

Powerful insights

Paul was invited to share his insights into the economy as part of the Management Research Centre’s (MRC) seminar series. Staff, students and members of the public packed into the lecture, titled ‘When will the crisis end?’ at the University. The series aims to offer a look at a diverse range of current issues in the business world. Other speakers over the last two years have included Nigel Winter, Chief Executive of the Vegan Society, member of the House of Lords Baroness Sandip Verma and former Coronation Street star turned investigative journalist Nigel Pivaro.

Professor Mike Haynes, Joint Head of the MRC, organises the lectures and emphasises the broad appeal of the speakers they attract.

He says: "We have a visiting speaker programme and what we are trying to do is combine academic speakers with people who can offer us powerful and controversial insights into some of the most exciting issues affecting not merely business but the community today.

"Paul Mason was very enthusiastic and offered a challenging viewpoint of an unstable future in which the fundamental problems of the world’s economy have still not been addressed."

The insights in Paul’s seminar offered food for thought for the economics and business students present, but he also had some advice for journalism students hoping to follow in his footsteps. He describes journalism as the "writing of history in real time" and has these words for budding economics editors:

"Don’t have an inferiority complex. I talk to journalism, business and economics students and I travel all over the world and the Brits are highly respected for a lot of things, but not networking. My advice is get out there and be that person you are trying to be – not the person you need to be."

For more information about the University of Wolverhampton Business School’s Management Research Centre, visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/mrc