Thursday, 22 October 2009

As Easy As One, Two, Three

Alistair Darling is a formidable politician and a fine Chancellor. His record proves it. Yeah.

So when he tells us that the route out of our borrowing situation - not mess - is as easy as one, two, three then we should believe him and start doing a Jackson Five jive. Like his Lords and Masters, Brown and Mandelson, he believes the prime way out of the mess we are in is to borrow to grow.

Hands up all those people in business who have borrowed to grow. A fair number I would suggest. Hands up all those businesspeople who have borrowed to grow in a recession. Not many. Typically in business we borrow to survive when in a recession as growth opportunities are fewer unless you can find a little opportunity niche that you can exploit.

Granted running a country isn't like running a business but there are only so many things you can spend the borrowed money on to incent growth. So far, we have seen the massive bank bailouts as the main form of spending, hence borrowing. This has been the vast majority of what we have spent. We have also reduced VAT which is due to end but retailers would say this has helped stave off the worst of the economic recession. In business to business companies like mine, VAT decrease make not a jot of difference.

So if we borrow more, we can theoretically invest to produce growth. I would really like to understand exactly what the Government is going to invest in right now to stimulate growth other than to entice consumers to do what they did before which is borrow heavily to fund their spending. Already, people are facing some austere spending cuts as job uncertainty grows. Credit card and unsecured debt across the population is dangerously and unsustainably high, wages are set to not grow and possibly decrease, and taxes are set to increase. It really does not take a genius to work out that growth is really going to have to be 'false growth' in order to stimulate the economy.

The Chancellor's wish list is that we borrow more, try to reduce spending while maintaining priorities and increasing taxes which will all stimulate growth - one, two, three. The growth will produce a richer economy which will make it easier to pay off the debts.

Right. Meanwhile, across the pond Alan Greenspan is warning that US debt is now dangerously high at $1.4 trillion. He warns that there comes a point when the economy runs away from you and you continue to borrow more money just to service the interest on the debt as the growth rate just eludes you enough to need to borrow more just to try to catch it. In 2014 it is estimated our interest bill on our debt will be £60bn per annum which is equivalent to the entire NHS budget at current rates.

There comes a time when you need to stop borrowing and cut your cloth for the economy you are in. That does not stop you from investing in growth - it is just a realistic look at what you can really afford. It means that some of your grandest plans will have to be re-thought, some of your pet projects put aside. It means you have to make a rigorous look at the layer upon layer of wasted management and bureaucracy. It means you have to look hard to gain efficiencies, it means that some services will have to be downgraded and cut. It means some businesses will have to be allowed to whither and die. It is just a fact.

Britain has gone through an unprecedented period of 'false growth' where we believed we were prosperous but we were not as well off as we thought. We have to rein in spending across the board - at a personal and Governmental level. We have to make certain sacrifices which some people will not like - but there is far too much fat in our public sector and we are letting far too many people into our country. That is not a racist remark - it's a simple fact. I have no time for people like the BNP, they are dangerous and a subversive influence with no credence in modern politics. But they will gain a foothold if we do not face stark facts in this country.

13 years ago, Blair and his Government trashed the issue of immigration at election time and swept to power. Like so many other things about that wave of 'Cool Britannia' the issue came back to haunt them in their laissez-faire style of Government. Like so many other issues, like the economy and the banking system, they now look to blame the previous Government for current problems. It really is a time when the reckoning is long overdue.

It would be good to hear from people like the Chancellor the truth about our situation, what he actually proposes to do to in real measurable activities to remedy it and then get started. If he thinks that just talking will solve it as is the traditional method of politics, then it will be as easy as one, two, three but we will be no further forward. However, if he looks a little further afield he will see that countries like France and Germany have got to the very heart of the problems and are now functioning nations out of recession as we still wallow in it. He will learn quickly that applying vast sums of money only pays dividends if you apply it in the right places.

Stuffing it into the pockets of bankers was our biggest mistake and will be the most enduring. As these rich people wave two fingers at us and make vast profits again off the back of our kindness and stupidity, Britain is no better off. Borrowing more money will not help us now - we should have never have blown so much in the first place.

I fear for the situation we are in. As Sir Howard Davies put it recently, we do not have a clue how bad the situation really is. What we do know is that debt is probably the biggest issue this country and its people face. As any small businessman will tell you, there comes a time when your business needs more cash at a much faster rate than it can grow - we call that throwing good money after bad.

Right now, Britain faces exactly that situation. For every new pound borrowed, we had better know exactly how we will spend it and how much it needs to return and in the meantime we need to find how we can create more money from savings ourselves - long before they raid the pockets of the people in taxes. Because right now, as a taxpayer with a stake in all this, I would really like to know where my next pound will be spent and it had better not be to give more support to rich bankers, support the immigration of more people, fund vast inefficiencies and bureaucracies in Government and the public sector, pay for wage rises to politicians, fund vast allowances for the same people or on wars which we should not be fighting.

It's my money, and I want a say. I think we are all in the same boat.

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