Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday that he isn't very worried about technical breakdowns that might occur because of possible "Y2K" year-end computer glitches. What does give him pause is "the response of businesses and households to unwarranted fears of serious disruptions."
"It is the economic effects of their endeavoring to adjust to the century date change in the next few months that I see as replacing technical concerns as our major challenge," Greenspan told a meeting of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, held to publicize the readiness of most public and private institutions to deal with the Y2K problem.
Greenspan has recently made a series of similar public comments seeking to allay concerns about possible financial-system turmoil due to the Y2K bug, noting that such anxieties may cause more problems than any computer foul-ups.
The Y2K problem stems from the fact that many older computers, unless they are modified, will treat the new year as 1900 rather than 2000 when their internal calendars click from "99" to "00." As a result, some computers could fail.
But Greenspan, reiterating earlier statements, said yesterday that all but a few financial institutions are ready for the new year.
"While it is easy to obsess about the few institutions in our society that may not be ready, let us not lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of us are not only prepared, but have contingency plans to deal with breakdowns," he said. The Fed itself has taken many such steps, Greenspan noted.
However, he added: "As attention heightens and rumors inevitably mushroom, it is important what is known and what is not known be clearly articulated by those of us in both public and private leadership positions in Y2K management. In the final analysis, facts are the only antidote for rumors."