A macro-political budget

It is a fascinating Budget, because it combines small print and big themes. In political terms, it is vital: possibly the most important budget  of the new Century. Philip Hammond knows that that his principal economic objective is self-evident: growth. There is a Micawberite margin, of around one percent. If the economy were to grow at two and a half percent a year, that might not sound like a large sum, but it would amount to almost £50 billion. This would allow for tax cuts, strides towards the goal of a balanced budget, spending increases, pay rises and feel-good all round. At one and a half percent, everything would be much tighter, with antagonism between those clamouring for scarce resources - and forget about balancing the budget. The Office of Budget Responsibilty (OBR) now estimates that growth will stutter along at around one point three percent. As a result, the balanced Budget has receded into the mists of the later 2020s.

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