Rishi Sunak hasn’t yet completed a year as Chancellor but he is a crisis veteran. The word ‘emergency’ featured four times in Sunak’s speech in which he outlined the UK’s three emergencies. These are health, economic and fiscal. “Our health emergency is not yet over. And our economic emergency has only just begun”.
Recent developments on the vaccine front have provided a much needed shot in the arm for optimism for 2021. In turn, that has filtered through to the economic forecasts. Nevertheless, there is no economic vaccine for the deepest recession in 300 years, just painkillers.
For seasoned investors, the term ‘Black Monday’ is a reminder of the global stock market crash that occurred on 19 October 1987. Meanwhile the Wall Street Crash (29th October 1929) was also known as ‘Black Tuesday’. This was when panic selling reached its peak and followed steep share price falls on the previous day, ‘Black Monday’, and on the 24th October 1929, ‘Black Thursday’. The third day of the week hasn’t escaped the prefix ‘Black’ either, with the 16th September 1992 dubbed ‘Black Wednesday’ in the UK. This was when currency market speculators forced the UK to remove sterling from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM).
Underneath the Spending Review headlines was an old, but very important assumption – the UK gets more productive, and fast. Higher productivity means higher wages and thus tax receipts. There are signs of improvement but productivity has fallen short of expectations in recent years. (And Northern Ireland continues to lag the rest of the UK.) Will this time be different?
The Chancellor has developed something of a reputation for over-promising and under-delivering when it comes to fiscal austerity. He certainly didn’t shed this image today in the first all-Conservative Spending Review since the mid-1990s.