The UK government will not give financial incentives for businesses to deal with Year 2000 issues, even though the millennium crisis could cause a million job losses.
When asked last week whether the government would provide tax relief to defray the huge costs of the date change conversion, Barbara Roche, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the DTI, said firmly: "No. The government is providing #1 million to launch Action 2000. This problem came from industry and industry must solve it."
The minister was speaking at the publication of new research on the millennium problem and its effect on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Despite her unwillingness to consider direct financial assistance, Roche noted: "It is about business survival so it must be a management priority."
Sharing the platform with the minister was Robert Guenier, departing chairman of Taskforce 2000. His successor at Action 2000, the government's new agency for the millennium, will be announced later this week.
"The results were dreadful but unsurprising," said Guenier. "1.2 million small businesses employ 10 million employees: a 10% failure rate could create one million unemployed. The consequences are amazing and unacceptable."
The survey, co-sponsored by the DTI and Sage Software, is based on 902 responses.
Awareness of the problem appears to be high, with 97% of respondents claiming to understand the business implications, yet 60% think business needs to be more aware of the consequences. More than 80% are attempting to resolve the issues in-house, yet most do not have the requisite resources.
However, 14% of respondents have done nothing at all to date. Over half of all respondents have not allocated any funds for the problem from their 1997-1998 budgets.
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