The UK government has dodged dealing with the serious issues of child poverty, rising inequality and the environment in this year’s budget, leading development economist Sir Richard Jolly told RT. And even what is pledged to the National Health Service (NHS) is ambiguous, he added.
Jolly, an honorary professor at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, says the government has attempted to address recent criticisms on universal credit, the NHS, shortfalls in the lack of safety in high-rise buildings, and first-time home buyers in its budget. But there are a number of “serious negatives,” Jolly pointed out. He added that he has just returned from China, where there is a marked difference in how key issues are being dealt with.
The government has failed to deal adequately with the doubling of child poverty rates since 2010. “This is treated as welfare, but in fact is human investment in the country’s future. China is planning to end general income poverty by 2020, and after this concentrate on reducing vulnerability among special groups of children,” said Jolly who was Deputy Director of UNICEF for 15 years.
Despite rising inequality between the top one percent and the majority in Britain, “there was no real action on this,” Jolly noted.
He says the government’s goals for the environment are far into the future, beyond the life of this parliament. “In contrast, China for instance, will have installed 17,000 battery charging points for cars in Beijing by the end of this year,” he said.
Jolly says the government’s downgrading of future growth means the budget was not fully integrated with the economic performance of the country, or at least, not in a way which ordinary citizens could assess. “One indication is the dates for ending the deficits are continually being pushed into the future, with no real indication that this is being done,” he said. “More serious is the failure of the government to have a long-term plan which restores productivity and achieves growth linked to clear long-term and social objectives.”
Jolly also questioned the different ways new items of additional expenditures are presented. “Sometimes additional amounts [are presented] in millions or billions, sometimes in real terms, sometimes in percentages, designed to give a positive tone while in fact mystifying anyone without a full set of expenditure tables in front of them.”
“One learns from other comments that the additional sums for the NHS are significantly below what the top NHS managers have requested as a minimum… And one has no idea what the £10 billion for the NHS investment over the life of this parliament really means,” he added.
The budget has also been criticized for a number of other elements, all seemingly hidden in small print. Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that first-time buyers will no longer have to pay any stamp duty – a tax levied on property purchases – on properties worth up to £300,000 (US$400,000), and will pay no duty on the first £300,000 of properties worth up to £500,000. According to a damning Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) analysis, however, the policy will increase house prices by 0.3 percent and benefit those who already own houses… not new buyers.
The budget also mysteriously puts aside £3.5 billion a year for the EU – long after Britain leaves the bloc. Reporters have been told this is just an estimate from the Treasury based on old figures, because so much is still not known about Brexit. It could make the Tories – who promised to “take back control” of £350 million a week for the NHS – looking rather silly, however.