Little love for Alistair Darling on the opposition benches in the British parliament today after the Finance minister presented his 2009 budget.
Darling insisted it was a budget for jobs, and he announced a range of measures he said would take the sting out of the recession for hundreds of thousands of workers. He also announced a whopping 50 percent income tax rate for the highest earners from next year, higher child tax credits and pensions, and a two percent hike in alcohol and tobacco taxes. Disbelieving cries came when Darling said this: “The action already taken here and internationally, and the measure that I announce today mean that i expect the economy to start growing again towards the end of this year. And I’m also confident that when the global economy recovers and doubles in sze over the next two decades Britain can and will be a world leader”. That growth prediction flies in the face of nearly every analyst’s position, which is that growth will return if at all no sooner than 2010. 1.9 billion euros will go on helping people back into work, and 725 million euros will be spent between now and next year to keep more young people in education, an integral part of what Darling called Labour’s policies for the future, investing in new skills and technologies to stimulate growth in a recession that could be sustainable. The elephant in the room is debt and public borrowing; at 195 billion euros this year, the figure is much worse than expected.