Monday, April 6, 2009

The Debts of the Spenders: Quantitative Easing Might Fail the UK

Remember my earlier post about watching the UK for signs of hyper-inflation?

Or the various Jim Rogers videos about the UK's fiscal stimulus programs?

[Edit - I have cut most of the story over copyright concerns. You can read the full thing by contacting DJ Newswire].
=DJ HEARD ON THE STREET: UK Treasury Faces Hard Choices


So severe is the deterioration in the U.K. public finances that when Chancellor Alistair Darling delivers his budget on April 22, he will have to make some very hard choices indeed.

Public borrowing is likely to overshoot Mr. Darling's forecast by £17 billion ($25.24 billion) this year alone, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. By 2015/16, it reckons, public-sector net debt will have risen to 81.4% if one includes the International Monetary Fund's estimate of £130 billion of U.K. losses from financial-sector bailouts. To balance the budget by then, Mr. Darling must find an extra £39 billion per year, equivalent to 2.7% of gross domestic product.

Given the fragility of the U.K. tax base, with corporate and income tax receipts likely to be structurally lower as a result of the collapse in the City of London, that should mean spending cuts rather than tax increases that might drive companies and individuals offshore. The IFS reckons he would have to freeze spending for five years to fill the black hole in the accounts. That would mean deep spending cuts for many departments.

Whether Mr. Darling has the political strength for an austere budget a year away from an election amid rising unemployment must be open to doubt. But failure to act threatens an even worse outcome: rising inflation and a showdown with the Bank of England. BOE Governor Mervyn King has already warned that any further fiscal stimulus could push up inflation -- already persistently higher than the BOE's forecasts -- which, if left unchecked, could raise doubts about the credibility of the BOE's inflation target.

That could leave the government facing the hardest choice of all: whether to allow the BOE to put up interest rates in a recession and abandon quantitative easing, thereby forfeiting the ability to monetize its debt; or, to remove the BOE's inflation target -- and with it, risk destroying what remains of the U.K.'s financial credibility.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires
04-06-09 1415ET


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