Can’t be bothered sifting through the Office for Budget Responsibility’s latest Economic and Fiscal Outlook? I don’t blame you. As a snappier alternative, here are five graphs I’ve produced to sum it all up. They include the forecasts from the Autumn Statement, last year’s Budget and Osborne’s original, emergency Budget, so that you can compare and contrast.
1. THE GROWTH CHART. The Chancellor could barely contain his joy when he pointed out that 2013’s growth estimate has increased threefold, from 0.6 to 1.8 per cent, since last year’s Budget. It’s a similar story for this year, too: the economy is now expected to grow by 2.7 per cent, against 1.4 per cent in the Autumn Statement and 1.8 per cent in the last Budget. But, whatever Yazz tells you, up isn’t the only way. The forecasts for 2017 and 2018 are marginally lower than those made in December.
2. THE BORROWING CHART. As the Chancellor said, all of this Budget’s borrowing forecasts are an improvement on those made in the Autumn Statement. What he didn’t say is that they’re only a marginal improvement: net public sector borrowing will still only reduced to naught in 2018-19, far later than initial expectations.
3. THE STRUCTURAL DEFICIT CHART. This is what the Chancellor means when he talks about reducing the deficit. So how’s he doing? Actually, the number are slightly worse than those from December – but, again, the difference is marginal. You’re probably spotting a theme by now: these forecasts are either a little bit better or a little bit worse than the last set. The big revisions, really, came in the Autumn Statement.
4. THE DEBT GRAPH. Yep – it’s very similar to the Autumn Statement again, only this time slightly better. And that means that this is still one of the scariest fiscal graphs. All those cuts, all that deficit reduction, and the overall debt pile will still be around three-quarters of GDP in 2018-19.
5. THE EMPLOYMENT GRAPH. The employment miracle, which I mentioned yesterday, continues. No longer do the OBR’s forecasts plateau throughout 2013 and 2014; they just keep on rising. The number pencilled in for 2019, of 31.5 million people in work, is higher than at the Autumn Statement – by 100,000. But the real joy here is in the trends that the OBR doesn’t observe, such as the rise in full-time work.