Contribution to Financial Times 2018 survey

We were asked by the Financial Times to contribute our views on a range of issues which have the potential to affect the UK economy during 2018. On overall growth, we said the economy will slow in 2018 as the uncertainty created by the stop-start Brexit negotiations nags at consumer and business confidence and at investment intentions. A drop to 1.5% from 1.8% in 2017 seems likely. The interesting comparison is with the eurozone, which could post growth as high as 2.4 per cent. Those data will be confirmed in spring just as the UK will leave the EU — a timely reminder of the damage that the UK is doing to itself by leaving.

On Brexit we said that it will either be possible to stay within a/the single market and a/the customs union or even that opposition to Brexit itself is starting to grow. Either there are now hopes that the UK will get as bad a deal as feared a year earlier.

On the consumer economy, we said the downward pressure on consumer spending that has so far come from a fall in real wages is likely to continue. Our other concern is the mountain of debt that consumers are building up and whether any of the bubbles in personal loans, credit card debt, and car loans will burst.

A year ago we contributed to the 2017 survey in which we said we predicted that growth would slow sharply, that inflation would rise and the negative impact from Brexit had been postponed rather than cancelled.

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LatinFinance’s finance minister of the year

We worked with LatinFinance, the magazine that covers Latin American economies and financial markets, on its Finance Ministry Scorecard. This is an annual assessment of the performance of the finance ministers and their ministries over the latest calendar year.

It recognises outperformance in managing fiscal and external accounts, building sustainable economic growth, and contributing to controlled inflation. It takes into account ministries’ transparency and clarity in communications with markets, independence and financial strength. The final decision is based on a series of in-depth interviews with market participants including ratings agencies analysts, private-sector agencies analysts and independent economists.

Our assessment led LatinFinance to decide that Colombia and finance minister Mauricio Cardenas had performed better than any major economy over that period. The announcement is here. Colombia was the fastest-growing large economy in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014. It kept its fiscal deficit limited, and attracted strong levels of foreign investment. Further, the country has a low debt ratio, at below 32% of GDP.  WE carried out an interview with Minister Cardenas in which he talked about how he had achieved strong growth in the face of the fall in the oil price and signs of weakness in the eurozone and Chinese economies. The article is here.