Tag Archives: debt

Brown snubbed over tax

From

Jonathan Oliver and Bojan Pancevski

GORDON BROWN’S carefully laid plans for a G20 deal on worldwide tax cuts have been scuppered by an eve-of-summit ambush by European leaders. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, last night led the assault on the prime minister’s “global new deal” for a $2 trillion-plus fiscal stimulus to end the recession. “I will not let anyone tell me that we must spend more money,” she said. The Spanish finance minister, Pedro Solbes, also dismissed new cash being pledged at Thursday’s London summit.

“In these conditions I and the rest of my colleagues from the eurozone believe there is no room for new fiscal stimulus plans,” he said.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has insisted that “radical reform” of capitalism is more important than tax cutting.

The attacks on Brown’s ambitions for the G20 to inject more money into the world economy come at the end of a week where the prime minister has travelled to three continents to build support for his proposals.

The likely deadlock at this week’s meeting will kill any remaining hope that Alistair Darling’s April 22 budget will offer significant tax cuts.

The assault by European Union leaders also represents a defeat for President Barack Obama, who is desperate for other big economies to copy his $800 billion stimulus plan.

“There will be a very long communiqué, but there won’t be much in it,” said a Washington economist.

Adding to the disarray, a draft of the agreement Brown hopes to secure was leaked to a German news magazine, prompting suggestions of “dirty tricks” by Berlin.

The draft stated that Britain wanted a “$2 trillion” global fiscal stimulus. However, the figure appeared only in brackets, indicating agreement on the package had yet to be reached.

The stimulus would boost world growth by 2% and employment by 19m, the draft said. The rest of the document was mainly general pledges.

“We believe that an open world economy, based on the principles of the market, effective regulation and strong global institutions, can ensure sustainable globalisation with rising well-being for all,” it said.

A No 10 source expressed “disappointment” at the leak and insisted the $2 trillion figure was not new money but an expression of the total tax and spending packages already pledged by G20 members.

Privately, government officials admit that no further fiscal stimulus will be announced this week, although there will be a $250 billion package for the International Monetary Fund to help rescue struggling poor nations.

Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, said he sympathised with the concerns of demonstrators planning to disrupt the London summit. “There is understandable frustration and some anger. The global economic systems has stalled and what we have got to do is get it started.”

George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, yesterday warned Brown against further tax cuts in the budget. “When it comes to your plans for a second fiscal stimulus, I say this Gordon Brown: enough is enough,” he said in a speech. “We will not let you play roulette with the public finances yet again.”

UK officials have not given up on the idea there could be agreement on a fresh boost for the world economy later in the year. “It is likely that there will be another heads of government meeting probably in Asia in the autumn,” said an official.

“This will be the forum where the next round of stimulus will be discussed.”

Brown still hopes to establish the IMF as an informal referee for international tax cuts. The plan is that the Washington-based body could advise on the timing of any future cuts.

Merkel’s criticism drew an angry response from Labour MPs. Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister, said: “Who does Mrs Merkel think is going to buy Mercedes and BMWs if she . . . says putting demand into the economy is a bad thing?” Another Labour MP said: “One has to ask who had something to gain from the leak of the communiqué. This feels like a dirty trick.”

There are growing fears that protests at the summit venue, the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands could be marred by violence. Scotland Yard will be deploying specialist officers trained to use 50,000-volt Taser stun guns.

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U.K. MEP Daniel Hannan: Transcript of His Attack on Gordon Brown

Prime Minister, I see you’ve already mastered the essential craft of the European politician, namely the ability to say one thing in this chamber and a very different thing to your home electorate. You’ve spoken here about free trade, and amen to that. Who would have guessed, listening to you just now, that you were the author of the phrase ‘British jobs for British workers’ and that you have subsidised, where you have not nationalised outright, swathes of our economy, including the car industry and many of the banks? Perhaps you would have more moral authority in this house if your actions matched your words? Perhaps you would have more legitimacy in the councils of the world if the United Kingdom were not going into this recession in the worst condition of any G20 country?

The truth, Prime Minister, is that you have run out of our money. The country as a whole is now in negative equity. Every British child is born owing around £20,000. Servicing the interest on that debt is going to cost more than educating the child. Now, once again today you try to spread the blame around; you spoke about an international recession, international crisis. Well, it is true that we are all sailing together into the squalls. But not every vessel in the convoy is in the same dilapidated condition. Other ships used the good years to caulk their hulls and clear their rigging; in other words – to pay off debt. But you used the good years to raise borrowing yet further. As a consequence, under your captaincy, our hull is pressed deep into the water line under the accumulated weight of your debt We are now running a deficit that touches 10% of GDP, an almost unbelievable figure. More than Pakistan, more than Hungary; countries where the IMF have already been called in. Now, it’s not that you’re not apologising; like everyone else I have long accepted that you’re pathologically incapable of accepting responsibility for these things. It’s that you’re carrying on, wilfully worsening our situation, wantonly spending what little we have left. Last year – in the last twelve months – a hundred thousand private sector jobs have been lost and yet you created thirty thousand public sector jobs.

Prime Minister, you cannot carry on for ever squeezing the productive bit of the economy in order to fund an unprecedented engorgement of the unproductive bit. You cannot spend your way out of recession or borrow your way out of debt. And when you repeat, in that wooden and perfunctory way, that our situation is better than others, that we’re ‘well-placed to weather the storm’, I have to tell you that you sound like a Brezhnev-era apparatchik giving the party line. You know, and we know, and you know that we know that it’s nonsense! Everyone knows that Britain is worse off than any other country as we go into these hard times. The IMF has said so; the European Commission has said so; the markets have said so – which is why our currency has devalued by thirty percent. And soon the voters too will get their chance to say so. They can see what the markets have already seen: that you are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued government.

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Federal Reserve plan stuns investors

By Krishna Guha in Washington

Published: March 18 2009 18:17 Last updated: March 18 2009 23:40

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday stunned investors by announcing plans to buy $300bn of US government debt, triggering a plunge in bond yields and the dollar.
In a further display of aggression, the US central bank also said it was more than doubling its purchases of securities issued by housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to $1,450bn. It said it now expected to keep interest rates near zero for an “extended period” of time.

The yield on 10-year US Treasuries plummeted 50 basis points to 2.50 per cent, while private borrowing rates fell by roughly half as much. Equities bounced with big gains in troubled banks such as Citigroup and Bank of America. But the dollar fell 3.2 per cent against the euro and 2.3 per cent against the yen.

Goldman Sachs said the Fed was throwing the “kitchen sink” at the problem. The plan to buy Treasuries caught investors off guard. “It appears that they wanted to give the market a jolt,” said Peter Hooper, an economist at Deutsche Bank.

The last time the central bank attempted to bring down yields on long-term securities through direct intervention came during the ill-fated Operation Twist in the 1960s. Recent comments by Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, and William Dudley, New York Fed president, did not suggest that Treasury purchases were imminent.
But the deterioration in the US outlook, problems rolling out the US financial rescue plan and the Bank of England’s success in buying UK government gilts seem to have persuaded the Fed to act.

Alan Ruskin, a strategist at RBS, said it was a “flip-flop” that “could be cast as a sign of desperation” but “confirmed that Bernanke will do whatever it takes to get some hold of the problem”.

The Fed said it would concentrate on Treasuries with maturities of two to 10 years. It said its objective was to “improve conditions in private credit markets” – not to help the government finance its mounting deficits. The Bank of Japan said it was stepping up its purchases of Japanese government debt by about a third to Y1,800bn a month.
Wednesday’s Fed announcement will increase the size of its balance sheet by another $1,150bn to about $3,000bn even before the roll-out of a $1,000bn scheme to finance credit markets. Once this scheme is fully implemented, its balance sheet could approach $4,000bn – nearly a third the size of the US economy.

A swollen Fed balance sheet runs the risk that the US central bank may find it difficult to manage down the money supply when the economy turns, raising the possibility of inflation.
Gold surged in response to the Fed’s announcement, rocketing from a session low of $884.10 a troy ounce to a high of $942.90, a jump of 6.6 per cent.

Additional reporting by Michael Mackenzie, Kiran Stacey and Anuj Gangahar in New York

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