Belfast Telegraph

Hail a cab and get to grips with the economy

It's already got to that stage but oil producers seem oblivious to the further impact they're having on the global economy. Let's hope they see sense soon.

Some of our most astute economic commentators work from the comfort of their own car.

By their very nature taxi drivers have a finger on the pulse of the local economy and can provide an insight into the mind of the typical business person through a combination of tallying up their weekly takings, the type of questioning which would put Jeremy Paxman to shame and, of course, eavesdropping, which is generally forced upon them by slightly inebriated passengers.

As an occasional user - of taxis that is - I find it an invaluable opportunity to find out what they really think about the economy.

On a journey earlier this week we obviously kept things local in the initial stages of the conversation with my very original "Are you busy tonight?".

The answer was no, but he was hoping things would pick up as the weekend approached although the start of summer meant takings from the student population would hit the bottom line come the end of the week. He reckoned it had been a better few months for the taxi trade since the start of the year - sentiment which was echoed in yesterday's consumer confidence data - but was worried that a slow summer period and the upcoming public sector job losses would hit hard.

So far, so predictable but it was about to go global.

"At least we don't work in Greece," he said. "Now there's a country about to be dumped by the European Union."

With that the Adam Smith of the driving world waxed lyrical about the "disgruntled" Germans who wouldn't want to sub the Greeks to the tune of another €12bn on top of the original €110bn.

How right he may prove to be. Axel Weber, an outgoing member of the European Central Bank, said earlier this week: "ultimately, solving the Greek debt problem will have to deal with the outstanding, past amount of debt".

And that's what the German's are worried about. Lending more cash to Greece will merely mean papering over a gap in a similar way to borrowing money from one credit card to pay of another. In essence it exacerbates and prolongs the problem.

We won't be directly affected as David Cameron has persuaded EU leaders that Britain should not take part in the loan given it's not in the eurozone but as part of the International Monetary Fund.

That, my wise taxi man said, proves that the decision not to join the euro all those years ago was a good one.

Luckily, we'd reached the end of the journey but that stage and it was time to get out of my carriage of learning, although next time I hope to tackle that particular thorny issue and many others. I didn't even get started on corporation tax.