U.K. Virus Aid Package Beats Financial Crisis Stimulus
Comment of the Day

March 27 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.K. Virus Aid Package Beats Financial Crisis Stimulus

This article by Alex Morales, Lucy Meakin and Andrew Atkinson for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The coronavirus crisis has transformed the fiscal landscape at a stroke. Britain was on course for a budget deficit of 55 billion pounds in the fiscal year starting April. Now, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, borrowing could be as much as 200 billion pounds as an economy on course to shrink at least 5% this year hammers tax revenue and drives up spending on welfare.

That could leave the deficit just below the 10% reached in the aftermath of the financial crisis and push up already elevated debt levels.

The chancellor announced his first economic package to deal with the outbreak when delivering the budget on March 11, unveiling 12 billion pounds of measures to mitigate the effects of the outbreak on the economy.

As evidence mounted that the crisis was snowballing, he followed up with a 350-billion pound stimulus package comprising government-backed loans as well as 20 billion pounds of grants and tax cuts for struggling companies.

Then, last Friday, he announced 7 billion pounds of extra welfare spending and said the government would pay 80% of salaried employees’ wages up to a maximum of 2,500 pounds a month -- a plan Bloomberg Economics estimates will cost 17.5 billion pounds.

Announcing further details of the job-retention program today, the Treasury said the government will also cover employers for the National Insurance and minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions of furloughed workers, saving firms 300 pounds a month per employee on average.

Eoin Treacy's view

The trouble with the coronavirus is not so much in the mortality rate but in the speed with which it is spreading. Overloading hospitals with scarce resources and scary reports of tens of thousands dying has put a great deal of pressure on the economy. However, it is also worth considering that despite the scale of the challenge faced in Italy, they have seen the peak in the infection growth rate. That suggests the problem is unlikely to get worse.

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