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We need these expert scaremongers

TWO weeks ago, leading economist Austin Hughes said it. Last Monday, the Taoiseach said it and last Tuesday, Brendan Keenan said it: careless talk costs jobs, and David McWilliams and Richard Curran are careless talkers. The queues that formed outside Northern Rock's office this week have -- as Brendan Keenan pointed out -- nothing to do with fundamentals. Northern Rock rode out the recent money market storm. But when its depositors -- worried by a spate of apocalyptic media comment -- turned into headless chickens, it faced something no firm or economy, however strong, can combat: a loss of confidence.

Now, world financial markets are reeling and the housing market is shaken, both here and in the US. Last Monday's Generation Game programme is something the economy needed like a hole in the head. Likewise, the Future Shock programme of a few months ago. Exactly how many people are going to lose their jobs and how much housing equity will be lost as a result of those programmes isn't yet clear. But it will be more, much more, than the fundamental economic situation justifies. Like the Northern Rock situation, the damage will far exceed what was needed.

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