財政大臣傑里米-亨特修復英國經濟的計劃是否可行?

3週前
財政大臣傑里米-亨特修復英國經濟的計劃是否可行?

上半年,在下一次大選前的幾年裡,政府支出和對能源賬單的進一步支持,為家庭提供了支持。已經為學校、醫院和社會護理找到了額外的現金,財政部首席秘書約翰-格倫向我暗示,其中一些資金可以用於提高公共部門工人的工資。

下半年,即2025年之後,是一個不同的問題。這就是財政大臣警告我們的那些令人瞠目結舌的決定:削減開支和提高所有人的稅收。如果財政大臣要實現他的目標,即在五年內使債務在經濟產出中的比例縮小,就需要這些措施。

不過,這個雙管齊下的計劃是否奏效,不僅僅是五年後終場哨響後的比分問題--記住,到那時保守黨可能都不在球場上了--這也關係到未來幾天的直接判決。

對能源公司和富人立即增稅,意味着稅收占經濟產出的比例將上升到第二次世界大戰結束以來的水平,他的黨內一些人無疑會認為這是反增長的,但政府認為,在能源價格上漲將我們國家的能源賬單推高到相當於支付第二個NHS的情況下,家庭收入下降的幅度是1956年開始記錄以來最大的。

如果他的計劃要發揮作用,這與保護增長同樣重要。最近利率的急劇上升意味着政府正面臨着自己的借貸賬單,在未來幾年內每年將超過1000億英鎊。但是,如果投資者對正確的計劃感到滿意,這筆費用就會下降。

與眾不同的是,反對派的立場在這裡也非常重要。工黨的影子財政部第二號人物帕特-麥克法登(Pat McFadden)向我證實,如果工黨贏得下一次選舉,其目前的經濟計劃基線是OBR數字所顯示的540億英鎊的財政整合。

工黨團隊私下裡表示,政府將讓工黨來收拾它的爛攤子。在公開場合,他們強調,他們需要表明他們對財政穩定的重視。這表明,我們可能正在走向1997年式的局面,當時在野的工黨接受了即將離任的政府制定的非常嚴格的支出計劃,但他們自己可能根本就沒有頒布過。

所有這些大的經濟數字很可能在選舉前發生變化;在那之前,英國商業研究局肯定會再做幾次預測。但是,下一個半世紀的政治電車線已經到位了。

該計劃是否有效,就說服市場而言,我們應該很快就能看到,但如果工黨加入進來,這將為財政的正確性增加一些壓艙物。由於他的預算案,經濟下滑是否會比其他情況下更淺--正如亨特先生所承諾的那樣--永遠不會是簡單的評估。但最終人們會對他是否做了足夠的工作來幫助他們度過這次經濟衰退有自己的看法,而他也會希望自己的看法是正確的。


In the first half, covering the next couple of years before the next general election, there is support for households, in the form of government spending and further support with energy bills. Extra cash has been found for schools, hospitals and social care, and the chief secretary to the Treasury John Glen hinted to me that some of this could be used for higher wage rises for public sector workers.

The second half, after 2025, is a different matter. That's where the eye-watering decisions the chancellor warned us about come in: the spending cuts and higher taxes for all. They're needed if the chancellor is to hit his target of getting debt to shrink as a proportion of economic output in five years.

Whether or not this two-pronged plan works isn't just a question of the score after the final whistle in five years time though - and remember the Conservative Party might not even be on the pitch any more by then - it's also about the immediate verdict over the next few days.

Immediate tax rises, on energy companies and the wealthy, mean that tax as a proportion of economic output will rise to levels not seen since the end of World War Two, which some in his party will no doubt view as anti-growth, but the government defends as necessary in a situation where rising energy prices have pushed up our national energy bills by the equivalent of paying for a second NHS and household incomes are falling by the largest amount since records began in 1956.

That's just as vital as protecting growth if his plan is to work. The recent sharp increase in interest rates means the government is facing a bill for its own borrowing that's going to top £100bn a year over the next few years. But that bill could come down if investors are satisfied that the right plan is in place.

Unusually, the position of the opposition, really matters here too. And Labour's shadow Treasury number two Pat McFadden, confirmed to me that his party's current baseline for its economic plans, should it win the next election, is the £54bn fiscal consolidation revealed by the OBR numbers.

Privately the Labour team suggests the government is going to leave Labour to clean up its mess. Publicly they are stressing that they need to show they are serious about financial stability. This suggests we may be heading for a 1997-style situation, when Labour in opposition accepted the very tight spending plans that the outgoing government put in place but might themselves never have enacted at all.

All these big economic numbers may well evolve before the election; the OBR is certainly due to give several more forecasts before then. But the tramlines for the next half-decade of politics are in place.

Whether the plan works, in terms of convincing the markets we should see pretty soon, but if Labour is on board, that adds some more ballast to the ship financial rectitude. Whether the downturn is shallower than it might otherwise have been - as Mr Hunt is promising - thanks to his Budget, is never going to be straightforward to assess. But in the end people are going to have their own view of whether he has done enough to get them through this recession, and he'll be hoping he's got that right as much as anything.

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