A global pandemic was never going to come without a financial impact. That was always a certainty. Estimates for how much the pandemic has cost the country so far are in the range of about £280billion up till this point, with heady projections of the costs which will continue over the next few years, especially through fiscal borrowing.
The spectre of the monetary cost has remained in the shadows, lurking there ominously and just waiting for it’s moment, before making it’s entrance stage left. That moment seems to have arrived now.
Over the last day or two, this financial impact has begun to receive greater media attention – most particularly, at the financial statement delivered to Parliament yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequor. Addressing the gathered MPs, he spoke about having to make “tough choices” – amongst these, a freeze on the pay of most public sector workers. There would be two exceptions to this rule, he said – it would not apply to some NHS staff, nor to those whose wages are less than £24,000 annually. All of this is set against a backdrop of a shrinking UK economy – forecasts suggest it will diminish by more than 11% this year.
Along with this, there has been a decision to cut international aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP.
While there may be solid financial reasons for the decisions being made, still it remains that in comparison to many other nations, we are doing quite well overall; the present situation affects not only us, the whole world – in that sense, as are all in the same boat.
The danger is that those most in need are the ones who are likely to lose the most because of these decisions.
That applies to the poorest within our own nation, and the desperately poor in other nations who rely on our financial assistance.
One of the tell-tale marks of a good and decent nation is it’s willingness to help those most in need. And so I hope and pray that the financial impact of Covid19, and the fiscal changes now coming, are mindful of this and do not abrogate the repsonibilities we have to those on greater need than ourselves.
I hope we make the right choices.