The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cautioned the British government on Tuesday as officials moved to cut taxes and regulations, arguing that the agenda will worsen inflationary pressures.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss and fellow Conservative Party lawmakers recently canceled a rise in the corporate tax rate, cut the basic income tax rate to 19%, and launched discussions about special economic zones in multiple regions of the United Kingdom. The government also introduced a stimulus proposal to limit the annual cost of power for a typical household to £2,500 for the next two years in response to soaring energy prices — a policy that follows the Energy Bills Support Scheme, which will remove £400 from citizens’ power bills each month over the upcoming winter.
Investors concerned about the government’s ability to fund obligations jettisoned assets this week, leading to a sharp decline in exchange rates for the British pound. The Bank of England began purchasing government bonds from the market in an attempt to slow the fire sale.
A spokesperson from the IMF, an international financial institution charged with securing worldwide monetary stability, issued a rare rebuke against the British government. “We are closely monitoring recent economic developments in the UK and are engaged with the authorities,” the spokesperson asserted. “Given elevated inflation pressures in many countries, including the UK, we do not recommend large and untargeted fiscal packages at this juncture, as it is important that fiscal policy does not work at cross purposes to monetary policy.”
Indeed, the Bank of England hiked target interest rates from 1.75% to 2.25% this week — a move intended to dampen economic activity by raising the price of borrowing for consumers and businesses. In contrast, tax cuts stimulate the economy by increasing disposable income.
Mark Flanagan, who leads IMF operations in Britain, issued a similar critique earlier this year while Conservative Party members campaigned to replace Boris Johnson as head of government. “At some point you have to decide, do we want to invest in the climate transition? Do we want to invest in digitalization? Do we want to invest in skills for the public?” he remarked. “Well, if you do, you need the resources to do it. And the way to realize those resources is to lift the tax ratio a little bit.”
Conservative Party officials rebutted the IMF sentiment, arguing that the institution’s philosophy has failed to promote economic growth in recent years. “The IMF has consistently advocated highly conventional economic policies. It is following this approach that has produced years of slow growth and weak productivity,” David Frost, an ally of Truss and a former leader in Brexit negotiations, explained. “The only way forward for Britain is lower taxes, spending restraint, and significant economic reform.”
John Redwood, a member of Parliament, added that the IMF “didn’t foresee the big inflation which they triggered, they didn’t have sensible advice in good time to see off inflation, and now late in the day when the inflation is very visible for all to see, they’re suggesting taking measures to tackle it when the world has moved on.”
As other European nations introduce energy consumption restrictions upon their citizens while continuing to prioritize renewable power commitments, Truss has advocated higher oil production and established the goal of rendering Britain a net exporter of energy by 2040. “Energy policy over the past decades has not focused enough on securing supply,” Truss argued during an energy policy debate in the House of Commons. “All of this has left us vulnerable to volatile global markets and malign actors in an increasingly geopolitical world.”