Another crisis wasted

At El Alamein in 1942, British forces secured their first military victory of the Second World War. Winston Churchill assessed that Britain and its allies had ‘perhaps’ just reached the ‘end of the beginning’ of the war. But that didn’t stop him and other Western leaders starting to plan for life after the war. In Britain the government’s Beveridge Report was published in November that year, paving the way to the expanded welfare state that became a hallmark for the postwar domestic settlement. Less than two years later, with Allied armies only weeks into fighting their way across Europe and still heavily engaged in the Asia-Pacific theatre of war, their countries’ representatives convened in New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods. There they charted out what became the postwar international economic and monetary architecture that operated for the ensuing quarter century.

These ambitious initiatives remind us that huge crises, such as our coronavirus pandemic, used to be seized as opportunities to undertake radical longer-term planning. Judging by this week’s UK Budget package, this is not the case anymore. Times like this demand bold economic thinking. Rishi Sunak has squandered that opportunity.

Read the full article here.

Beyond the zombie economy

The UK’s productivity problem not only long precedes the Brexit discussions. It also long precedes the 2008 financial crisis. Longer-term studies actually reveal that the decline in productivity growth, not just in Britain but across mature industrialised countries, has been pretty relentless since the 1970s. That its slowdown began so long ago means the problem is deep-seated and therefore justifies a substantial strategic response. This is usually presented as an activist industrial policy.

But the big paradox about industrial policies is the contrast between the extensive cross-party consensus on this issue and the lack of headway in reviving investment and productivity. Read the full article here.

 

No Deal is nothing to fear

Rocketing food prices, medicine shortages, gridlock on Kent’s motorways, administrative and economic chaos… No doubt we’ll hear many more of these scare stories about the potential consequences of Britain leaving the EU without a deal as the Article 50 talks continue to go nowhere fast.

People who are stuck on the status quo and disdainful of democracy are hoping to scare the rest of the population into staying in the European Union. Change, they scold, is too dangerous to countenance because, well, it’s about changing things. As a counterweight against all this hooey, there are three truths we need to set against all the alarmist prophecies.

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Philip Hammond’s ‘Tiggerish’ delusions

A few months of better productivity figures and a whole 0.1 per cent upgrade in the Office for Budget Responsibility’s growth forecast for this year is not much to be positive about. Yet under instructions from the prime minister, chancellor Philip Hammond presented a more upbeat, ‘Tiggerish’ side of himself at his first Spring Statement, and announced that there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in Britain’s elusive recovery from the financial crisis of 10 years ago.

It didn’t take long for critics to accuse the chancellor of complacency.

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Ten Wasted Years: The Crash One Decade On

This summer has seen the start of the discussion about the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis. It’s a discussion that will continue through to autumn next year. To recap, it was on 9 August 2007 that the French bank BNP Paribas announced that the ‘complete evaporation of liquidity in certain market segments of the US securitisation market’ had ‘made it impossible to value certain assets fairly’. This blunt admission by BNP Paribas that it could no longer price, and therefore redeem, investments in three of its funds triggered a breakdown in trust between financial institutions.

As a result, the wide diversification of repackaged debt around the financial system, which had previously been heralded as sound ‘risk management’, backfired. No one seemed to know which bundles of paper were worthless, so none could be relied upon. Credit markets began to freeze up.

Read the full article here.