By Nell Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 2, 2006
Not bad for the first day on the job.
As Alan Greenspan opened his new consulting firm yesterday, the British government's top economic official announced that he had retained the former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman as an unpaid adviser on economic issues.
"I am delighted that Dr. Greenspan has agreed to be Honorary Adviser," Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said in a written statement. "His advice on issues relating to global economic change will be much appreciated."
Greenspan, who left the Fed on Tuesday after more than 18 years running the world's most influential central bank, declined to comment. His spokeswoman, Michelle Smith, confirmed the arrangement with Brown.
The two men will confer "as issues of importance come up" said Charlotte Farrar, spokeswoman for the British treasury.
The two have worked closely together and spoken warmly of each other for years. Last month, Greenspan described Brown as his "good friend" when the two received honorary degrees from New York University. According to a text of his remarks at the ceremony, Greenspan said Brown "is without peer among the world's economic policymakers."
Greenspan is so well regarded in Britain that Queen Elizabeth II awarded him an honorary knighthood in 2002 in recognition of "his outstanding contribution to global economic stability."
Brown's announcement may be an effort to appropriate some of Greenspan's luster at a time when the British economy is slowing before a likely transition in political leadership, said James Forsyth, an assistant editor at Foreign Policy magazine who closely follows British politics. Brown is the likely successor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is widely expected to step down before the next general election, which has not been scheduled, Forsyth said.
Greenspan's cachet "enables Brown to argue that whatever problems the British economy is having are related to the broader problems of the global economy and that the world's greatest central banker says Brown's is the best hand to have on the tiller," Forsyth said.
That may benefit Brown -- if voters can understand what Greenspan is saying.
Last year, Greenspan praised Brown while delivering a speech in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, where Brown was educated and economist Adam Smith was born. "I am led to ponder to what extent the chancellor's renowned economic and financial skills are the result of exposure to the subliminal intellect-enhancing emanations of this area," he said.