Tech Industry

Scrutinizing public policy on Y2K

Economists, analysts, business leaders, and federal officials plan to convene to discuss government policy on the millennium bug.

As Washington falls under the shadow of Kenneth Star's much anticipated report on the President, economists, industry analysts, business leaders, and federal officials will convene there later this month to discuss current government public policy decisions on the Year 2000 technology problem and their impact on the country.

The Discovery Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy think tank based in Seattle, Washington, is hosting the conference titled "Y2K vs. American Prosperity." The forum will delve into the finer points of public policy implications of the millennium bug and their impact on the nation's industries and economy.

"With all the different things going on in the news today with the scandal and the stock market, other important issues have been pushed to the side," said Rob Crowther, a representative for the Discovery Institute. "We want to bring attention to this issue and its public policy implications."

He said this is the first conference the institute has had on the millennium bug, although a number of fellows and staff have been researching the issue over the past 18 months.

"Global policy makers must prepare immediately for worst case scenarios in the Year 2000," warned Ed Yardeni, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, in a statement today. He will be speaking at the conference. "With so few days left and so many systems still not ready, policy makers must prepare contingency and disaster recovery plans."

Yardeni, who was named by the Wall Street Journal as the top U.S. economic forecaster in 1997, is well-known for his predictions of a year 2000 recession. He believes the downturn could be accompanied by deflation, or a cycle of falling prices.

Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, will also be on hand at the Seattle conference on September 24.

"We can hope for the best, but we must not rule out preparation for the worst," Bennett said in a statement. "The government must take an aggressive role in helping to minimize the effects of 2000 on the health, safety,and welfare of American citizens."

Bennett's Senate Committee is today holding hearings on the challenges facing the Transportation Department as it tries to deal with the Year 2000 problem. The DOT is one of the agencies cited in a recent Office of Management Budget report as falling way behind in its efforts to make its computer systems recognize the year 2000.

In the past, the federal government, especially the Clinton administration, has been criticized by officials within its ranks and outsiders for not being aggressive enough on the issue, despite President's Clinton's national call for action earlier this year.

Crowther said the conference will address current public policy efforts as well as what can be done in the future.

The institute is organizing the one-day conference with backing from such sponsors as Microsoft, Boeing, GTE, Oracle, the Information Technology Association of America, and others.