The Great Debate UK
By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.
Budget Day again, and the pressure on Chancellor George Osborne is rising ominously. There is little agreement about what needs to be done, but complete agreement that something has to change because the state of Britain’s economy is simply awful.
Yet just look at the facts in the table below (all the data are taken from Eurostat, the EU’s own statistical agency). For the latest quarter, the UK economy contracted by 0.3 percent – but France’s performance was just as dismal, Germany’s economy shrank by twice as much, as did the euro zone as a whole. Only the USA achieved a significantly better outcome, a dazzling growth rate of zero – but at least it didn’t shrink. Year-on-year (Y-O-Y, as the pros call it), the picture is even clearer. Britain’s economic growth, a miserable 0.3 percent, was not significantly lower than Germany’s, but better than France’s minus-0.3 percent, or indeed the euro zone as a whole, which was down by 0.9 percent. Only the USA grew to any significant extent – and there are signs that it may now be starting to slow down, even before the impact of the fiscal cliff and the sequester are felt.
What about unemployment?
You would never know it from the BBC, but the story is more or less the same. Our unemployment rate is lower than anyone else’s except Germany. Moreover, unlike in previous recessions, the low unemployment rate is certainly not due to discouraged workers dropping out of the labour force, because the number of people employed in Britain has actually grown over the last few years, thanks to the fact that the private sector has been hoovering up workers released by the public sector.
% of GDP UK
6.2 EURO ZONE
The facts can be summarised in two famous quotations, appropriately twisted.
First, Britain has the worst-performing economy, apart from all the others, and secondly, all successful European economies are alike, whereas each unsuccessful economy is unsuccessful in its own way.
- Danny Sriskandarajah is Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society. The opinions expressed are his own -
In recent years the Commonwealth has become an easily derided organisation. From its inception as a clever way of easing de-colonisation to the heady 1970s and 1980s when the association showed a radical dynamism on issues like Apartheid, the international association has shown itself to be unique and useful.