Study: Y2k bug panic could hit economy

Panic over the millennium bug resulting in companies stockpiling could have a serious impact on the economy according to a survey published this week.

With around 200 days to go until the millennium, a study from Cranfield School of Management found 60 percent of organisations questioned have stockpiled in preparation for millennium chaos. Firms have bought raw materials and finished goods in bulk to offset fears over supply chain bedlam.

Some organisations said they will increase normal purchasing orders by up to 200 percent leading up to the millennium.

Report author Dr Richard Wilding is concerned the panic will lead to recession. "Organisations need to realise that stockpiling to offset risk from 2000 problems will impact on their businesses and the economy as a whole giving rise to a boom and bust scenario measured in years rather than months," he said.

Another survey -- conducted by Rooftop Communications -- revealed employees are in the dark about how -- and if -- their bosses are dealing with the bug. Over 1000 small to medium-sized businesses took part in the survey, with 75 percent of employees unsure about whether or not their companies are bug-compliant. Nearly half of those questioned were worried that their companies appeared to be doing nothing about the bug. Nearly a third claimed they were put under pressure to work over the millennium period without explanation or extra money.

Chairman of Rooftop Richard Coppel criticised the government for failing to deal with the social dimension to bug chaos. "The government has focused on the bug as a technical problem rather than a social one, " he said, adding that people stockpiling food or withdrawing all their money from the bank could cause as much chaos as technical problems.

Coppel also weighed into the government's booklet 'The Millennium Bug -- Facts Not Fiction' as insufficient to address people's real concerns and challenged Action 2000 to communicate more effectively with the ordinary worker. "They tend to consult company directors and IT managers who are going to say the right thing, but it is the staff who will carry the message to customers," he said.

An Action 2000 spokeswoman questioned the demographics of the Rooftop survey. "If they asked the receptionist, they probably wouldn't know what the company is doing to combat the bug," she said.

Action 2000 had no further comment, claiming not to have seen either survey.