Thursday 31 January 2013

Meetings Of Minds And Bodies

Someone we know has the job of attending meetings of senior members of an international organisation with a global presence.  Minutes have to be kept, records of the meeting also and all the complex business of agenda’s, notices of meetings, circulation of documents, drafts and the rest are necessary.

It is critical that they should be done properly because the organisation is transparent in its discussions and dealings and fully engaged with the media.  Also, it has a very tight budget and is dependent on voluntary support.  Add to that all the key members and others have to earn their living by other means.

This is done from that person’s flat on a laptop and the whole lot is done on the web, conferences, discussions, communications and all, the whole bang shoot.  That person may trot out to the shops nearby for food and the necessities of life, but travel is not the first of the worries or requirements.

Repeat, the organisation is on a very tight budget for its administration, management and other top managerial work.  Many of our companies and especially government and the rest are not.  They can charge it to others and do. 

So it is arguable that given technically what is now available and the likely developments in the next couple of decades could make business and political travel as we know it and as it has developed over the last decades of the 20th Century into the first decade of the 21st both much less needed and perhaps even a liability to effective and proper communication.

Groups of tired people with travel lag and disrupted schedules who are forced into all the carting about nations or continents to then make decisions in an air of panic or urgency and with the worries of physical movement to contend with is not the best or the most sensible way to do this.

Such events or meetings could be rare and with a clear purpose and timetable.  That they occur simply for grandstanding, photo-opportunities or on the pretence of “doing something” or “being at the heart of” or to attempt to add weight to some specious set of words to please the media fashions of the moment is still a major risk. 

There is also the other, more important risk of such meetings, especially with the elements not recorded or made public may demand secrecy for purposes that could be questionable or known to be damaging to others.  There might be instances that do need a limited amount of personal contact but it could be reducing by the day.

At present there seem to be rather too many of these grand exercises for my liking amongst the present generation of leaders around the world.  This could be one of the major reasons for the world’s troubles.  Too many tired men (mostly) making hasty, ill informed decisions in secret for short term advantage and to hell with the rest.

In the UK at present we have all the gaming over what is laughingly called “transport policy”, largely exercises in political showmanship and designed to benefit the financial sector, the one that does most of the travelling these days at our expense.  The Big Ideas of very big projects have all the usual claims for GDP and jobs.

But as so many of the companies and agencies involved are not UK and so much of the procurement, work and finance also comes from elsewhere then there may well be little real benefit domestically. 

What is likely is that as none of the projects are ever likely to make a return on the investment and when revenues do arise some two decades from now they will fall far short of running costs.  The “growth” which will not be growth will bequeath huge liabilities to those who follow us.

At present our government has botched two major rail franchises, the West Coast and the Great Western and others have run into serious trouble in the recent past.  It could be argued that HST2 is needed because we are unable to sort out the arrangements for the existing lines.

There is a long history of government inspired error, interference and blundering that helped to both worsen ongoing problems and cause key operational change and investment in existing facilities to be disregarded.

As for new airports and related facilities if the government cannot be trusted to make decisions about local roads and railways can it be trusted with its ideas and figures for international or major airports?

In a country littered with the existing and the remains of former air facilities together with a dense former network of railways there seems to be little or no idea of how to bring them together or engage in rational thinking.   It all seems to be on the hoof reactions to old issues that have resurfaced.

Inevitably, we have the bleating that all the big ideas are necessary for big business.  But with much real business now changing its shape and location, no reliable forecasts for either the cost of energy for travel or the numbers of people who might be able to afford to travel in two decades time it is all guesswork.

A recent headline that suggests we need a new major London airport so that more Chinese can come to buy consumer goods made largely in the Far East which are fashion brands owned by overseas based companies just about sums all the thinking up.

Must go, there is a lot of key information arising from discussions promised to relations in several continents to send off before I have my afternoon cup of tea.

1 comment:

  1. "the likely developments in the next couple of decades..."

    I was discussing this with friends only yesterday and this is the view we came to. Business travel could decline dramatically so HS2 would be yet another white elephant.