Magazine article Public Finance

Curiouser and Curiouser

Magazine article Public Finance

Curiouser and Curiouser

Article excerpt

Listening to Chancellor Alistair Darlings reassuring tones in this week's Budget, one could easily believe that the crisis is over.

The debt forecast has improved (by £l00bn over six years), growth is returning, and both unemployment and inflation are falling. His speech implied that unless you're a banker, cider drinker or resident of Belize, you can rest easy.

Darling even managed to pull a few preEaster rabbits from his Budget box. Firsttime buyers get a two-year holiday from stamp duty for properties below £250,000, while £2.5bn has been found for a one-off growth package.

Having predicted a 'workmanlike' Budget with no giveaways. Darling produced something very different. He promised pot hole-free roads, 20,000 extra university places and a green investment bank.

There was no mention, of course, of the pain to come. G? this Alice in Wonderland world, huge cuts in public spending will appear as if by magic, it's jam today, but no mention of tomorrow's starvation diet.

The deficit will be halved over four years (equating to a reduction of £89bn) but apart from efficiency savings, curbs on pay and pensions and relocating civil servants, we know not how.

Darling is a politician who means what he says - he has been lauded for his early assessment that the economic times are 'arguably the worst they have been for 60 years'. …

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