Hawkish buyers back war with Iraq

27 February 2003
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27 February 2003 | David Arminas

Purchasers are taking a hawkish stand towards a possible war against Iraq, according to a straw poll by SM.

Two-thirds of those telephoned said they supported armed conflict. But several were also worried by the possible effects of conflict on oil prices and the threat of a terrorist backlash affecting travel.

The findings come after the UK saw its biggest anti-war demonstrations this month as part of worldwide protests.

Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, and George Bush, the US president, have been moving closer to war with Iraq, despite increasing public scepticism over the morality of an open conflict.

But British purchasers are bucking the trend. In a telephone poll, 10 out of the 15 people called by SM believed going to war was the only way to settle the dispute with Iraq.

One respondent, recalling the 1991 Gulf war, said: "We missed a major opportunity to finish the job last time."

Public concern has focused on a lack of evidence presented by United Nations weapons inspectors that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction.

But one purchaser said: "We must trust in what Blair and other politicians know but can't tell us."

Others said, "it's a saga gone on long enough" and "we've procrastinated for 12 years".

But despite an apparent willingness to use force, purchasers in both the private and public sectors have major concerns about the effects war could have on supply chains.

"It will certainly affect a number of procurement categories," said a purchaser in the manufacturing sector.

"Fleet and transport management, oil and oil products - such as plastic components - travel and security, are all areas we have been looking at to see where our risks lie."

Another purchaser said they had already done risk analyses: "We have looked at what happens to plastic component prices if the price of oil shoots up. But even if it does, we feel it will come down quickly once the war is over."

A travel buyer said his firm would be likely to give staff the option of not travelling because of the security concerns.

But one purchaser said a war could mean travel bargains: "People may stop flying as they did after 11 September and so there could be a 'bums-on-seats' sale, meaning a lot of spot-buying to make big savings."

One purchaser suggested war would be an opportunity for purchasers to show their worth: "The value purchasing can add when times are tough is more visible, so we should gear ourselves up for more work."

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