• Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Business

Starmer government faces ‘difficult choices’ to fix economy: IMF

The IMF said there was a need for major investment, particularly in the healthcare sector, against a backdrop of chronic underfunding and an aging population

UK prime minister Keir Starmer (Photo by Claudia Greco-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By: Shajil Kumar

THE new Labour government led by Keir Starmer faces difficult choices due to Britain’s high level of public debt, the International Monetary Fund warned on Monday (8).

According to the Washington-based institution, “The main medium-term challenge for fiscal policy will be to better account for public spending needs, while assuredly stabilizing public debt.”

The warning was part of the IMF’s annual review of the country’s economic and financial situation, known as the Article IV consultation.

“Absent a substantial boost to potential growth, stabilizing public debt will require difficult tax and spending choices,” the IMF said.

The Fund said there was a need for major investment, particularly in the healthcare sector, against a backdrop of chronic underfunding and an aging population, as well as “more ambitious structural reforms to boost potential growth.”

But the IMF also stressed the need to keep public debt under control, as it approached the equivalent of 100 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Among the measures that could be taken to meet this dual challenge, the IMF pointed to the possibility of boosting government tax revenues through increases in a carbon tax, inheritance tax, property tax and a broadening of the VAT base.

Though it predicted a “soft landing” after a short recession late last year, the Fund expressed caution about long-term growth, expecting it to be moderate, due to weak productivity growth, an ageing population and high levels of inactivity.

On the other hand, the IMF said increased immigration has so far helped to offset these negative effects, despite the persistent drag of post-Brexit effects, which are nevertheless gradually fading over time.

The IMF confirmed that inflation is back on target, anticipating a slight rise to 2.5 per cent by the end of the year, though this will only be temporary.

Following near-zero growth in 2023, the UK economy is expected to grow by 0.7 per cent this year, before accelerating to 1.5 per cent in 2025 and 1.7 per cent in 2026.

On Friday, the UK opened a new chapter in its history following the landslide victory in the general election of the Labour Party, marking the end of 14 years of Conservative government.

New Finance Minister Rachel Reeves, the first woman to hold the post, said on Monday that it was necessary to stimulate economic growth, in particular by speeding up infrastructure construction, especially in onshore wind power and housing.

(AFP)

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