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Who gains from Rishi Sunak’s Summer Economic Statement?

It is easy to criticise Rishi Sunak’s Summer Economic Statement for not doing enough. The Chancellor had a difficult task to assess what size of economic stimulus would be effective.

His main aim was apparently to create jobs for those who had lost them or will be losing them soon. But the Statement.is very disappointing because it doesn’t deal with the realities of the situation for lots of businesses. Social distancing is very likely still to be in place after October, so it just will not be possible for many businesses to provide their services to as many customers as before lockdown.

He should have included a new coronavirus staff retention scheme (turnover based). It should have provided a proportion (say 80%) of the difference between the takings of a business in a month compared to the relevant month in 2019, for businesses that can demonstrate that because of social distancing they can’t deal with the same number of customers.

Rishi Sunak reported that £4.6 billion of consumer debt has been paid off and households have increased their bank deposits by £25.6 billion. This means there is the potential for more than £30 billion (about 1.5% of last year’s GDP) to be spent into the economy when households have confidence restored.

With an economy valued at £2000 billion I believe the maximum economic growth per year with which the UK can normally cope is about £60 billion. Therefore an economic stimulus of £30 billion at this stage is about right.

Instead of allocating up to £9.4 billion for his Job Retention Bonus scheme, I think Rishi Sunak should have used the amount to increase all working-age benefits such as Universal Credit, Family Tax Credit, Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance by £20 a week, the same value as his temporary increase of Universal Credit and Family Tax Credit in March. This would have targeted the money to the poorest in society who are most likely to spend it and to the areas where more of these people live. Giving employers £1000 per worker retained is not going to do much to encourage them to retain the most marginal workers, and will do very little if anything to increase demand in the economy.

A lot of the £5.6 billion for infrastructure projects is not new money and includes maintenance projects. £900 million is for shovel-ready projects in England in 2020-21 and 2021-22. But some of this, maybe the majority, will not be spent until the next financial year. We must hope that most of the £5.6 billion will go into the areas worst affected by job losses.

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