Addressing 850 business delegates at a luncheon organised by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) last month, Smith described ‘one of the greatest economic crises since the Great Depression’.“I’ve lived through -- and survived -- at least seven economic crises,” he said. “Everyone is very skittish, very nervous, and least bit of information is often taken out of context.”“I believe we have 18 months to run of this extreme volatility,” he said.Following the U.S. sub prime crisis and the subsequent collapse of major financial institutions, Australian businesses now face a tightening of credit availability and a softening local economy.According to Smith, the credit crunch could re-establish a divide between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ businesses -- a divide that he said has blurred due to Australia’s strong economic growth in recent times.“If you think about Australia, for 15 years, we’ve had very good credit growth and access to equity has been extraordinary,” he said. “That has meant that good businesses have been doing well, but so have bad businesses.”“What we’re seeing is a return to normality. Good businesses will continue to do well, but bad businesses may not,” he said.“Access to credit should not be a problem for a good project -- if it stacks up, it will work,” he said. “If you’re a good customer of the bank, there should not be an issue. You should have access to credit.”Event sponsor IBM echoed Smith’s optimism, citing a global expansion strategy that has resulted in 63 percent of its revenue coming from outside the U.S., including 21 percent from the Asia Pacific region, during the past year.Glen Boreham, managing director for IBM Australia and New Zealand, highlighted recent Gartner research that predicts regional spending to increase by 8 percent from last year, despite the U.S. downturn.As well as striking recent deals with BHP Billiton, Customs, and QLD Motorways, IBM also has invested $10.8 million in a new IT Services Centre at the University of Ballarat Technology Park (UBTP).“In the last 12 months, IBM has hired over 1,000 people through acquisitions, contracts, graduate and professional recruitment,” Boreham told iTnews. “Currently IBM employs nearly 15,000 people in Australia.”“IBM has a proven record of providing high value to clients during turbulent times, which reflects the market's confidence in our strategy and business direction,” he said.“For IBM in Australia, we are continuing to win major deals and our clients are continuing to look to IT to help transform their organisations by improving productivity through innovation and automation.”
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