New Years have not been arriving with much in the way of promise for some time: just the hope that the next may be slightly better than the last and, if not, then at least that its passage will bring us one year nearer to those better times that we know from experience of the cyclical nature of things must arrive.
By better times we mean - immersed as we unavoidably are in the dismal science of economics - a business and industrial climate that will bring us more money, more security in jobs, and some hope for better life styles. Expectations, after the experience of the last few years, will be fairly modest. This is no bad thing. Most people realise that there is no way that things are going to be as they were in the days of taken-for-granted growth; too many people have no greater expectation than just to have a job.
Last year at least, people began to talk of recovery, cautiously qualified by the word 'fragile'. Whatever became of that old word 'boom'? It is not a word anyone appears to be using these days. Looking to Europe, there was some small, if perhaps slightly mean-spirited, comfort in observing that, compared with the Germans, French, Italians, et al, Britain was doing slightly better.
Unlike them, seemingly, it was on the up rather than the down escalator.
Many still have their fingers crossed about British performance in the New Year. Included among these, one imagines, would be the hush-puppy chancellor, Kenneth Clarke. His calculations were surely based on the assumption that tax receipts would shortly be on the rise. How else to offset the possible embarrassments that could arise from plans carefully-laid but obviously not immune to unforeseen circumstances, economic or political?
So we can look to times that are no worse. Perhaps. But we can also take a look at the way things are and consider the size of the slope we will be climbing for the rest of the decade.
This we do, a year having expired, in this issue. In Wanted: a World that Works (p30), Simon Caulkin examines an issue that is increasingly preoccupying the governments of developed nations: the potential for more employment, even for - that much-eschewed phrase - full employment. In De-industrialisation: made in Britain (p36), Nigel Healey considers a more common source of debate: our industrial base. He reports on the extent to which de-industrialisation is seen not to be part of an inevitable, benign global process but as a uniquely British problem. He also - as we like to be constructive - suggests ways in which Britain could be re-launched into serious industrial competition with the world.
In The Manager's Dilemma (p42) Robert Heller gives managers a pep talk on what they might expect in the future and how they should equip themselves not only to manage but to survive, and we have reports of how the changes in management are seen from Japanese, German, and American perspectives.
Then there is Gerard Egan. In Hard Times Contracts (p48), he gives his thoughts on a more appropriate wording for employment contracts. This would make them more appropriate not only to our shifting times but for the foreseeable future in a world where continuous change and movement, irrespective of the economic climate, are normal. And so into 1994. Happy New Year.