So, What Would You Be Doing If You Were the Chancellor?

Article excerpt

Four leading economists outline their prescription to aid Britain's recovery in today's Budget

Adam Lent, head of economics at the TUC

It's absolutely fundamental that the Government gets the economy back on track as quickly as possible. Clearly we're in the midst of a very serious recession. I don't really believe any of the words you hear about "green shoots of recovery" and it's vital under these conditions that the Government steps in to prevent things becoming any worse than they need to be, particularly with regards to unemployment.

I'd like to see a major fiscal stimulus unveiled in the Budget, which would involve a 25bn public investment programme spread over five areas to get the economy growing again. This would include a short time working subsidy to keep people in work rather than on the dole; an intermediate labour market programme to provide jobs and work experience for young people in particular; a tax credit stimulus which would reduce child poverty and put more money back into the economy; an increase in the jobseekers allowance to 75 per week; and finally a major investment to create green growth and green jobs.

Ruth Lea, head economic adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group

If I were Alistair Darling, I would use this crisis in public finances to re-assess what the state should be spending taxpayers' money on. To me, that means taking a scalpel to a lot of public spending programmes. He's already said he'd cut public spending by 5bn from 2007, and now he's saying he'd cut it by another 10bn from 2011, but it needs to be much more critical than that. The whole issue of what and what not to spend taxpayers' money on desperately needs to be addressed. He should be taking out 20bn or 30bn.

I think the rest of the issues people are talking about are just a sideshow. There's a lot of speculation about this being a "green" Budget, but realistically, how much money is the Government going to have to support electric cars? Given the sea of red on our public sector books, it's a total irrelevance. This Budget should be a damage limitation exercise, and there is certainly plenty of damage. …