Fiscal Policy Under Labour
The incoming Labour Government of 1997 promised a new approach to the conduct of fiscal policy. Two lessons to be learnt from previous experience were: (I) adjust for the cycle and build in a margin for uncertainty; (2) set stable fiscal rules and explain clearly fiscal policy. Although the claims for novelty were exaggerated there was a serious attempt to expand the supporting explanatory material at the time of the Budget and the Pre-Budget Report (which was itself an innovation). It started well, with the most significant tightening of fiscal policy occurring in 1997-8; but it ended with a record postwar deficit, a debt/GDP ratio heading for more than 75 per cent of GDP and the suspension of the fiscal rules. While the Treasury was not alone in failing to forecast the financial crisis and its consequences, doubts about the policy were being raised before 2007. Although the fiscal rules were met over the preceding period and projected to be met in future, a succession of current budget deficits and a tendency, from 2001 onwards, for over-optimism in fiscal projections left the UK less well equipped than it might have been to meet the challenges of the crisis.
Volume (Year): 212 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
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