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Economics & Social Policy Blogs
Today’s quarter point rise in interest rates by the Monetary Policy of the Bank of England is notable as the first increase in ten years. But at 0.5% Bank Rate is still at extremely low levels. Indeed today’s move merely reverses last August’s quarter point cut, which was an easing of policy designed to help offset the anticipated slowdown in growth following the EU referendum result. Given that by the end of last year it was clear that the economy was actually in fairly good shape it would have been prudent to have reversed this last rate reduction several months ago. But it is better late than never.
Warwick Lightfoot, Head of the Economics Unit, argues that the controversy over the introduction of Universal Credit is an opportunity to revisit the fundamentals of a modern, market-friendly benefit system. At present benefits extend too far up the income distribution, damaging incentives and productivity as benefit withdrawal pushes effective marginal tax rates to extreme levels. In addition, greater regional variation in benefits, to take account of local labour market conditions, would be a major improvement.
Warwick Lightfoot — Policy Exchange’s Research Director and Head of Economics and Social Policy — reflects on present monetary policy challenges, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Bank of England becoming independent and the creation of its Monetary Policy Committee. Lightfoot argues that the necessary starting point is to recognise that ‘monetary policy was at the heart of the monetary shock in 2007’, and that ‘the policies that have been successful in stabilising the macro-economy have thrown up complex microeconomic problems that will make future policy difficult’.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will face her fourth general election next Sunday, 24th September. Opinion polls strongly suggest that she will win a fourth term forming a coalition with one or more of f the other parties. Attention will then shift to the policy...
Policy Exchange Director of Research & Head of Economics and Social Policy, Warwick Lightfoot, assesses the prospects for fiscal policy to correct the divergences of incomes within the Eurozone. The scope and scale of policy – even with a Eurozone Ministry of Finance and fiscal transfers will not be sufficient to offset the forces of monetary policy pushing in the opposite direction. Structural reform of labour markets, not fiscal policy, is the best way to improve economic prospects throughout the Eurozone.
Policy Exchange Economics Research Fellow, Michael Taylor, assesses the performance of the UK economy in the year following the EU referendum. Contrary to many analysts’ forecasts the economy has held up well with growth close to its trend rate. Inflation and unemployment are both low by historical standards and public sector borrowing is finally under control. Sterling’s depreciation should soon see a recovery in exports. The economy is in pretty good shape as departure from the EU draws closer.
Policy Exchange Economics Research Fellow, Michael Taylor, analyses the implications of the forthcoming MIFID 2 European regulations for financial services. He argues that the effects will be far-reaching but on the whole should be positive. By comparison the impact of Brexit on financial services will be relatively modest.
Policy Exchange Director of Research & Head of Economics and Social Policy, Warwick Lightfoot, looks at the anxiety surrounding the US Debt Ceiling. He is confident that the American economy has the capacity to service a growing public debt, but questions whether her federal political institutions can be relied on to do so in a predictable way in the manner envisaged by Alexander Hamilton’s the first US Treasury Secretary, who established the credit of the US and laid the foundations for Treaury debt to serve as the world’s risk free benchmark.
Policy Exchange Chief Economist – and former Special Adviser to the Northern Ireland First Minister – Graham Gudgin responds to Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s proposals for the Irish Border to be moved to the Irish Sea after Brexit. Gudgin states that this new tough line from Dublin on the Irish Border is an unhelpful change of direction on an already complex issue — and that Varadkar’s decision to cease work on a potential electronic Border is particularly unwelcome. Moreover, his call in Belfast for the UK to negotiate a bespoke customs unions deal with the EU would require a special dispensation from the EU to allow the UK to agree new trade deals with third countries. This would be a major departure from EU practice — and is unlikely to be agreed.
Michael Taylor — Policy Exchange’s Economics Research Fellow — considers whether it’s right to assume that migration has a positive effect on productivity and living standards. He assesses the UK’s recent experience in terms of population expansion and the growth rate of GDP per head, before concluding that what ultimately matters is living standards, and that the UK’s performance has been ‘disappointing in recent years’.