Last week on this site, Peter Hoskin probed dangers to prosperity – what George Osborne has called a “dangerous cocktail of new threats from around the world”. Today, we open a three-part mini-series series on whether, even if growth continues, the Chancellor is achieving his vision – a rebalancing of the economy based on more saving, investment, exporting and high-tech across the whole of Britain: what he himself had called “the march of the makers”. Michael Martins of the Institute of Directors writes below today. Tomorrow, we will have Steve Hughes of Policy Exchange and Peter will write on Thursday.
In some ways, it is simply too early to tell. For example, Osborne’s ideal requires a better-educated workforce, and we won’t know whether or not the education reforms which Michael Gove began and Nicky Morgan is continuing have born fruit until today’s generation of school pupils are working in tomorrow’s labour market.
Indeed, it is arguably unfair to put the question at all. Five years is a stretch in the life of a senior politician, but a blink in terms of economic change. Furthermore, the Chancellor found himself putting out a blaze when he took office (that’s to say, reducing the deficit) and it is hard to save a building and rework it at the same time.
All the same, the question is worth putting because it matters – and, after all, Osborne himself raised it in the first place. The Chancellor has helped to deliver recovery, growth and jobs, wrong-footing the critics who predicted higher unemployment (encapsulated in David Blanchflower’s prediction that it could reach five million). And Britain’s economy looks all the brighter compared to the gloom of much of the Eurozone. But some of the signs are worrying: a triple problem of high debt, a stubborn deficit and a vulnerable balance of payments. Nor are we changing into a nation of savers. It is timely to probe.