Autumn Statement

It is interesting to speculate how much better the country would be if only we ran it rather than the politicians!
One thing that this government is facing is how best to present us with the sobering facts of our economic predicament whilst giving us confidence in how it is being dealt with.

Quite often with politics and confidence, it is not so much about facts, but about perception. The government would like it to be all about perception, but the media grills it about facts. Interviewers, probably rightly, take the position that they are there to challenge everything. This means, of course, that, however a positive a politician is trying to be, the viewer, or listener, ends up with a negative impression.

It does not help that there is a good deal of confusion caused by some of the terms used. For instance, governments and the media keep stressing that public expenditure must be cut, that the deficit (the gap between public revenue and taxation) must be reduced whilst, at the same time, advancing expenditure plans for infrastructure development, on the health/education sectors or on regional growth in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ of ‘ManSheffLeedsPool’ as it is now called.

How does all that make us feel – confident? Hardly, because it seems to be giving us the confused message that we should be spending less and letting them be getting on with spending more.

And yet, part of the confusion is the use of the word “public”. This word causes problems. In reality, the government does not want to curb spending by the ‘public’ because that is what oils the wheels of commerce, but ‘cutting public expenditure’ is the phrase used. Even if only subliminally, this acts to reduce our confidence.

It comes back to the use of ‘public’. For example ‘public’ schools are not for the general public and that is why, confusingly, they are also called ‘private’ schools. In that context ‘public’ and ‘private’ mean the same thing. This does not help clarity when the terms ‘public’ sector and ‘private’ sector are used when presenting us with economic and fiscal policy proposals.

If we had a better way of talking about these issues, it would become clearer that the government actually wants itself to spend less and wants us (individuals and businesses) to have the confidence to spend more and get on with increasing the growth in the economy. If this was made a whole lot clearer it would boost our confidence, which is still fragile out here in the world in which we live and work.

Published on Dec 09, 2014 by Neil Thomas