NOVEMBER 13, 2001
Will peace lead to prosperity?
IN recent weeks there has been much scare-mongering about the financing of Formula 1 in the immediate future. This has been the result of the downturn in the US economy which followed the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington but is also a reflection of the collapse of the dot.com economy which occurred beforehand.
Even before September 11 things were tough for Formula 1 marketeers. There was no such thing as easy money. Many of the technology companies which rushed into Formula 1 in the boom years were struggling to meet their commitments, almost every team has suffered from that. The tobacco companies have, to a large extent, remained the backbone of F1 funding but their influence is gradually being eroded away. The automobile companies have been moving in to replace them but these businesses are perpetually at risk because of internal political shifts (as has happened in recent days at Ford).
Getting the economy back on an upward path is not going to be an easy task. The United States of America has huge economic losses to be made up resulting from September 11 with thousands of people having lost their jobs as a result of the disruption caused. But more importantly confidence has been hit. This must be restored if the world economy is pick up.
The success of the military action in Afghanistan has solved some of the problems although the jittery nature of the economy was seen when an American Airlines jet crashed on take-off in New York yesterday. Stocks and the value of the dollar plunged until it became clear that the crash had been an accident rather than another terrorist attack.
The support for chief terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden has been eroded considerably by the diplomatic campaigns which followed September 11 and as the Northern Alliance troops take over Afghanistan it is inevitable that Bin Laden will be flushed out of his hiding place, presumably somewhere in southern Afghanistan. He has few places to run to and with the world's intelligence services on his tail it is going to be hard to get away.
Bin Laden has said that he will not be captured, his desire apparently being to become a martyr for other Muslim extremists if his own efforts fail.
The capture or death of Bin Laden remains an important issue for world confidence as his continued existence will be seen as a threat. It is possible that he and his Taliban supporters will try to wage a guerrilla war against the new government of Afghanistan from hideouts in the mountains but this is unlikely to be successful as the United States and its allies are not going to give up the search. The US government is offering $5m for information that leads to his capture and that is going to be very tempting to a number of Taliban leaders as their regime collapses and they begin to look for places to hide.
The collapse of the Taliban is good news for the world but there is more to be done before prosperity will return. And so F1 bosses are going to have to batten down the hatches and ride the hard times. Or they are going to have to sell up and get out.
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