Lyn Alden is a macroeconomist and investment strategist. In this interview, we discuss the recent market turmoil that followed the UK government’s proposed tax cuts. Why did the market reaction nearly result in the collapse of UK pension funds? What are the underlying issues? Where are we heading?
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Liz Truss became the UK’s new Prime Minister on the 6th of September. She immediately worked to develop a financial package that would protect people from unprecedented hikes in energy prices. At the same time, Truss was keen to implement a long-held economic ideology predicated on stimulating growth through low taxes and reduced regulatory burdens.
A political judgement was made to prioritise promulgating tax cuts ahead of any assessment of what spending cuts would be required to balance the budget; a huge emergency fiscal package was being combined with reductions in revenue. In the absence of any other information, the market took fright: the government wasn’t deemed to be in control of a burgeoning debt pile.
Immediately following the government announcement, the bond interest rates rose sharply whilst the British pound dropped precipitously. Despite government protests that the market response was due to external factors, the messaging was clear: the UK economy is becoming dangerously unbalanced. Within days the Bank of England had to react and start a £65 billion purchase programme to save a number of pension funds from collapse.
So, what actually happened? Experts, commentators and politicians have argued about the causes and outlook, whilst mortgage rates have rocketed such that emergency payments for energy costs will be dwarfed by additional mortgage payments. Is the UK economy at risk? If so, why, and what is the outlook? Does history teach us anything? And, fundamentally, can debt be brought back under control?