Friday, September 23, 2022


Pretty poor on the energy policy front too. And levelling up is no longer even on the agenda.


Today’s mini-budget deserves a quick comment in this blog, not least because of the close connections with energy issues. 


Let’s begin with a few quotes


Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said

“Today, the Chancellor announced the biggest package of tax cuts in 50 years without even a semblance of an effort to make the public finance numbers add up. Instead, the plan seems to be to borrow large sums at increasingly expensive rates, put government debt on an unsustainable rising path, and hope that we get better growth.

FT Robert Shrimsley described it as “…  a stunning repudiation of the economic strategy of the last two Tory premiers …” and  its “dismissal of the central importance of sound public finances” as a rejection of core Conservative principles.


The UK is "pursuing the worst macroeconomic policies of any major country in a long time" says former US Treasury chief Larry Summers.



Why it is likely to fail in its own objectives

Governments cannot mandate growth; if they could we would not be worrying about it now. GDP growth would already be with us.


·      Under the right conditions a fiscal stimulus can boost GDP, but tax giveaways to the wealthy are among the least effective polices as wealthy people have a higher propensity to save rather than spend. They also have a higher propensity to spend on imports and to spend on foreign holidays.

·      Purely in macro-economic terms, a fiscal stimulus that benefits lower incomes is more likely to stimulate spending.

·      The economy already has severe supply side constraints, especially evident in labour shortages. But the apparent pursuit of a trade war with Europe will simply make things worse, and reduce our economic potential further.

·      Unfunded tax cuts will simply increase the risks of further currency devaluation (with sterling already 2% lower today), and inflation.



Energy matters too

The crisis in gas prices, and possibly in supply adequacy, matters for two immediate reasons:


·      affordability of energy, particularly for the poor and vulnerable.

·      sufficient gas to meet demand and “keep the lights on”.


A blanket subsidy for energy prices is an inefficient means of protecting the vulnerable, with a high cost for only very limited protection. The sensible strategy would have been much more targeted support, either through social security, or, better still, through so-called “rising block” tariffs which allow initial tranches of supply at a much lower price, but with a higher price for higher levels of consumption, which provides a bigger incentive to avoid waste. This would also be more consistent with net-zero objectives for the sector.


The practicalities of this are not helped by the many dysfunctional features of a “quasi-competitive” energy market. 


Finally passing up the opportunity for at least some level of windfall taxation in the sector has merely added to the already extreme macro-economic risks that we face.

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