Growing Asian Purchasing Power – Closing London embassies is not the answer

Recently at my family home over a meal, l found myself talking economics with my mum for the first time in living memory when she told me “Did you know that a sack of rice has doubled in price in London?’ I was reminded of reports earlier this year that various UK and US supermarkets have been ‘rationing’ rice sales in recent months amid fears about panic buying and supply problems. Much of this rationing has taken place in areas with high proportions of Asian residents where rice is the staple of their diet, for example in parts of Leicester.

Given that this could be said to a very good indicator of the increasing ‘purchase power’ of the Asian middle classes globally, perhaps the new Mayor should tread carefully before taking forward any plans to close London’s embassies in countries such as India and China.

Increasing prosperity amongst the Asian community globally should not be underestimated on it’s capacity to impact upon the London and British economies as a whole like the recent world food shortages and fuel price increases. We need to recognise the potential amongst all the diverse communities in London and encourage them all to contribute to our city for the benefit of all of us. We need to promote London to Asian people as well as those from all our communities, both those who already live here and those who are still abroad to persuade them that London and Britain is a great place to use and travel to for holidays, tourism or even education. I believe that having embassies to maintain links and promote London in other parts of the world is a key part in this.

Boris Johnson is intending to consult on proposals to close a number of London Embassies in overseas cities. In my view this is shortsighted. Again, shaving a few pence off Londoners council tax bills will initially be a popular move, but the impact on London’s ability to attract new economic benefits in the future may not be so smart if it begins to affect all of us.