Winners and losers of the past five years

In his evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on the Summer Budget 2015, George Osborne opined that:

…distributional analysis is helpful. It helps inform the debate, and … shows how money is allocated by Government around the different income quintiles of society.

HM Treasury’s draft results have now been published. They show that low income households suffered the smallest pre-tax fall in income Read more

The male wage premium

Wage inequality between men and women has split opinion in the UK after the Government last week announced that all large firms would have to publish the gap in average earnings between their male and female employees. In light of that debate, today’s HESA data on the pay of recent graduates is interesting. It shows that female graduates are slightly more likely than male graduates to be in work a year after graduating, but they earn considerably less.

Of course, that’s not necessarily a causal link Read more

George Osborne explains Summer Budget 2015

The first reckoning for any Budget is when the Office for Budget Responsibility releases its estimates of the fiscal and economic impact of the measures. The second is when the Chancellor appears in front of the Treasury Select Committee and explains the reasoning behind the Budget. George Osborne’s Summer Budget appearance happened yesterday and shed light on a number of his more controversial fiscal policies. This is my summary of his answers, presented without comment. Read more

Why fiscal rules matter: growth

Last week I discussed the importance of good fiscal rules for sustainability, but the recent mess in the UK has demonstrated how poor rules can inhibit growth. When the Government took office in 2010 it faced a startlingly high deficit. It promised to eliminate that within five years, which happens to be the length of a Parliament in the UK. That’s probably not a coincidence. As Portes and Wren-Lewis point out in their paper, Governments like operational targets that they can achieve within their term of office. If you face a big hole in your budget then promising to fix it within the decade is no good if you might only be in power for half that time.

That has important consequences for the way surpluses and deficits are dealt with. It means that governments tend not to save surpluses beyond their term because they reap little benefit from it. They also attempt to close deficits within the term, which can be too rapid when the deficit is large. The recent recession in the UK is a textbook example of the latter problem. Read more

Should the OBR cost Opposition proposals?

Today has seen a debate over whether the Office for Budget Responsibility should cost Opposition policies. Sajid Javid appeared on the BBC to defend the Government’s decision not to allow it. He avoided criticising the idea but pushed the Government’s line that now is not the right time to extend the OBR’s mandate. On the other side of the debate, Simon Wren-Lewis criticises the Government for delaying.

am a big fan of extending the OBR’s responsibilities but there are solid reasons for the Government to demur. Read more