The fundamental situation in global markets may be
summarised as follows: stocks of food (wheat, feedgrains and soya) and fuel
(oil) are high, and hence world food and fuel prices are low; interest rates
around the world are also low (probably as low as they can go); nevertheless
global effective demand is not growing so economic activity is not increasing.

In the UK, except for managers, directors and senior
officials, average gross weekly earnings of full-time employees are lower now
than they were at the end of the crisis in 2010; in real terms between 5% and
10% lower. So increases in real domestic consumption are not to be expected.

Meanwhile the British government has a persistent budget
deficit. A sustained period of economic growth would generate tax revenues that
might resolve this situation. Without such resolution, continuously increasing
public sector debt threatens the long-term financial sustainability of the
state. It is questionable whether the deficit can be addressed by substantial
reductions in current spending. The alternative of increasing taxation or
extending its scope is neglected.

As international interest rates increase then unless the
Bank of England raises UK rates competitively the sterling exchange rate will
devalue and prices of tradables will continue to increase in the UK, depressing
living standards and putting further pressure on the non-tradables sector (e.g.
health and social care).

Whether the recently improved conditions of the global
market for manufactures (2015 to date) will be sustained and whether the UK
domestic economy will be well enough adjusted to take advantage of the
situation are the questions that bear down on Budget Day decisions. The OBR is
widely expected to judge that productivity growth in the UK will continue to be
poor. How they judge the development of the global market is unpredictable.
Whether they judge that anything the Chancellor of the Exchequer does will have
significant impact in itself is beyond conjecture.

I can’t envisage external circumstances riding to the rescue
of the UK’s economic prospects. I think it’s up to the government to take some
steps. My own recommendations are:

·
Local authorities should be instructed to
commission house-building, to be retro-funded by the properties’ sales.

·
Implementation of road-improvement programmes
should be accelerated, and cancelled rail-electrification schemes should be
restored, and the Swansea tidal barrage project should be funded. This would be
paid for by introduction of a 5% Employment Transaction Tax and cancellation of
HS2.

·
Trident renewal should be abandoned in favour of
expenditure on other defence measures (e.g. putting ‘planes on the new aircraft
carrier).

·
Health service funding should be enhanced by 5%,
to be covered in the longer term by repatriated EU contributions.

·
Improved
and expanded schemes for lifewide learning should be introduced, with
associated redeployment of state educational resources (reduction in the
school-leaving age and redirection of university finance).

The economic crisis that is just around the corner will only
be a crisis for the British state because of persistent failures of the
government in terms of economic policy. In particular the failure to address
the budget deficit, which emerged at the turn of the century and was
accentuated by the GGFC (2007-2010). Regrettably the responsibility for this
failure in government policy will be deliberately obscured, presented as the
consequences of the Brexit decision and hence blamed on the result of the referendum
rather than, more appropriately, on the pathetic inadequacies of the political
and administrative establishment (aka ‘the unaccountable élite’). The
opportunity provided for this Establishment to enhance existing distractions,
of the ‘divide and rule’ variety, in order to sustain the social status quo is
unlikely to be missed. This prospect is exceedingly depressing, coming as it
does at the centenary of the Great War Armistice and the 50th
anniversary of the 1968 évènements;
both anniversaries associated with failures to reform ‘the world order’.

For a detailed analysis underlying these conclusions go to:
http://www.stparsons.co.uk/files/before_the_budget_november_2017.pdf