Frank Field

Budget 2009: A crisis waiting to happen?

Budget 2009: A crisis waiting to happen?
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At a few minutes to one o’clock today the country’s fate passed from the Chancellor and was cast on the waters of the money markets.  Public borrowing will be £175bn this year and £173bn the following year.

From the very start of the crisis the Government has consistently underrated its severity.  Even so, Britain will proportionately be borrowing more than any other G8 country.

Are the funds out there to meet the colossal requirements of G8 countries?  Where do we rate in the international league tables as to whom colossal sums should be lent?

In these very early stages the Government is finding the gilts market sticky when it comes to issuing its endless new tranches of debt.  What happens if the gilt market proves itself even more difficult in coming up with the funds for the gilt floatations?  At some stage, maybe soon, gilts will be sold at lower prices, thereby pushing up long-term interest rates and damaging the recovery.

Even worse is the outlook if significant increases in the long term rate of interest still do not attract the necessary loans to balance this year’s books.  That could lead to a run on sterling.

If the Government has to revise soon its borrowing requirement for this year it would be well advised to accompany that statement with the announcement of either an increase in taxes or real cuts in public expenditure.

Panic in the money markets will lead to a much more deadly confrontation than the one seen of depositors peacefully lining up outside Northern Rock to lift their savings.  Investors in gilts will act much more ruthlessly.

Frank Field is the MP for Birkenhead.  You can read his blog here.