The world is going through a time of great economic uncertainty, following Covid, trade disruption and the effects – direct and indirect – of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Like ours, inflation in America and Germany, and much of the rest of Europe, has been running high, and interest rates have been going up globally.
Central banks have moved to counter with interest rate rises, led by the US Federal Reserve.
That also impacts other currencies’ – including ours – strength against the dollar.
That matters for a number of reasons – including that oil, for example, is priced in dollars.
The outlook for economies has become more difficult.
In the UK, that affects projections for tax receipts, just when we are grappling with post-Covid pressures for the NHS, and all Europe acknowledges the criticality of defence and security.
In these circumstances it is 100 per cent right to redouble focus on driving economic growth.
Growth, led by productivity, is precisely what enables us to spend on public services, and underpins living standards.
And while UK productivity has been below the US, France and Germany for longer than I have been alive, its growth has been especially sluggish since the 2007/2008 financial crash.
It is also true that certain tax cuts can help to stimulate economic growth, and this is what the ‘mini’-budget was aimed at.
But with the context of an already-sensitive international market situation, the measures as a whole represented a bigger effective outlay than the markets would support.
That matters especially with interest rates already under upward pressure.
The measures Jeremy Hunt announced are important in reassuring the financial markets and creating greater stability and confidence.
The government will not proceed with planned cuts in corporation tax, income tax or most other planned measures – and will review the energy bill support package after April 2023.
Hard choices had to be made, and there will be difficult decisions, too, with the medium-term fiscal plan, published at the end of the month with a forecast from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility.
In the chancellor’s statement last Monday (October 17), he was right to close on a note of optimism.
We have a great deal going for us, assets of enormous value – from our education and our innovation, key sectors like financial services, the creative industries, pharmaceuticals, high-tech, and many more.
The unemployment rate is exceptionally low by historical standards, and there is the extraordinary talent and drive of the British people.
As the chancellor said, the UK has succeeded because at the big and difficult moments we have taken the tough and difficult decisions in the long-term interests of the country. This is such a time.
Jeremy Hunt’s appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer is very welcome.
He brings huge parliamentary and governmental experience to the role, and an entrepreneurial business background beforehand.
He is, of course, someone we know well in East Hampshire as a neighbouring MP.
I have always valued his calm, considered yet determined approach.
That will be an important asset as he takes on the Treasury brief at this very challenging time.