The number couldn’t be more cataclysmic. Only 4,321 new cars left showrooms and hit British roads in April, the lowest number since a shocked and impoverished Britain emerged from the fog of World War II in 1946.
There is no better illustration of Britain’s catastrophic collapse in production and wealth since the start of the lockdown on March 23 than the 97.3% drop in engine registrations last month.
To put it in perspective, it is 156,743 less than the same period last year. The extent of the damage to the economic fabric of the country, the risks to all businesses and employees in the country, are out of all proportion to everything we have seen before as the government seeks to combat Covid-19 and protect lives.
With the UK foreclosure measures in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the economy of the country is undergoing a huge blow. Putting the under-45s back to work “would start” the engines
As a financial writer, I reported on Britain’s humiliating search for a bailout of the International Monetary Fund in 1976, the stock market crash of 1987, the ejection of the United Kingdom from the European monetary system ( precursor of the euro) in 1992 and the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
I can honestly say that we’ve never had it so bad.
Despite the valiant efforts of our young and inexperienced Chancellor Rishi Sunak to keep the economy alive with an extremely costly package, the nation is headed for a recession, soaring insolvencies and unemployment levels almost certainly not seen. during our lifetime.
We not only condemn a generation of young people to long-term unemployment, we also burden the country with a level of debt that will take decades to repay and which could even last until the 22nd century. (Remember, the debts incurred as a result of the Second World War were only finally repaid by Gordon Brown in 2006.)
The destruction of Britain’s vibrant, creative and entrepreneurial economy as the government hesitates over the best way to bring back trade is frightening to watch.
And unless something is done, it will cause untold long-term damage. Of course, no one should underestimate the tragedy and the personal feeling of loss resulting from the tens of thousands of deaths caused by Covid-19.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has talked about revitalizing the economy with a return to work, although the government continues to follow directives while the country waits
Nor can we minimize the immense suffering of those who have endured severe symptoms. But all the possible solutions that could once again give life to our dying economy should certainly be examined. And one possibility is to put the people who are least at risk of the disease – the youngest in the population – back to work.
One cannot escape the fact that the vast majority of citizens who have perished from this miserable plague are over the age of 70 and people with underlying health problems.
As a physically fit 70 year old, I am not happy to be remanded in custody, but I am at least satisfied that the government wants me to continue being safe from illness at home .
What I don’t understand, however, is why we can’t get under, say, the under-45s out of such repressive measures – and send them to the workplace to “turn on” UK engines , in the words of Boris Johnson. It is true that bright and dedicated young people have had their lives cut short by the pandemic, many of them in the NHS and the healthcare sector.
Each of their deaths is a tragedy. But the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, until April 24, only 332 people under the age of 45 died of Covid-19 out of a total of 27,356 deaths.
Surely, with frequent testing, with monitoring of tracing applications, sensitive social distancing, the use of masks and thorough hygiene and sanitation, should it be possible to safely operate this group again?
Clearly, this would require reopening schools, especially for younger students, as many of the men and women in this group will be parents and will no longer be able to provide home schooling.
I accept that in our great democracy, the idea of social engineering, ordering a group of employees to return to the workplace while leaving an older cohort at home may seem unacceptable.
However, the sad reality is that the costs to every citizen of keeping the economy closed are completely unsustainable. A city forecaster, the Center for Economics and Business Research – who was among the few to predict the coming economic impact of the coronavirus after it hit China – warned that more than a quarter of a million small businesses could not survive if the lock were to stay in place for another four weeks.
And regardless of all government support programs, his research suggests that an astounding 1.1 million businesses would collapse if they were to stay in place for three months.
Regardless of everything else, the economic consequences of isolation create state dependence among the population that is completely unsustainable.
In just a few weeks, the UK has moved from a country with full employment and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the advanced world, with only 3.7% of the unemployed workforce, to a countries where more than 50% of the population – through leave, grants, pensions and benefits – are on the public payroll.
Some 800,000 workers have been put on leave through the job retention program, guaranteeing them up to £ 2,500 a month.
Despite the valiant efforts of our young and inexperienced Chancellor Rishi Sunak to keep the economy alive, the country is heading for a slump, unemployment should increase
The initiative, managed by the HMRC, has so far cost £ 8 billion and the Chancellor – who has pushed for an early end to the foreclosure – has made it clear that he cannot continue. The government’s official oversight office, the Bureau of Budget Responsibility, warns that under current conditions, the program will cost the Treasury £ 39 billion.
If it goes beyond the end of June, as many experts recommend, the consequences will be even more terrifying. There are already worrying signs that the financial markets are worried about the amount of borrowing to which the government is exposed.
Last week, it emerged that a March sale of £ 3.25 billion of government bonds or gold-bordered stocks – normally seen as a solid investment and oversubscribed to buyers – almost failed due to a lack of investor appetite. The Treasury was only saved from embarrassment by the Bank of England, which intervened to make up the deficit.
To be fair, the government is making efforts. This week’s launch of the 100% “bounce back” guaranteed loan program with money readily available to the smallest of businesses – the backbone of the economy – has provided a filip to this sector.
But even so, the concern must be that the impact of the foreclosure is so severe that this plan will be too little too late. Boris Johnson, naturally cautious perhaps after his own dread with death, is inclined to go slowly.
The government is also facing the intransigence of the unions, which do not demand a return to work until the factories, offices and warehouses have been transformed to their satisfaction in terms of security.
No one wants to see a second or third peak of this crisis. But the truth is that we live on borrowed time and money. If Britain wants to have the resources to run the NHS, provide decent social care, put our schools and universities into operation and maintain the kingdom’s defense and security, then the economy must be revived – and quickly.
And there can be no better avant-garde to bring us back from the economic precipice than a workforce under the age of 45.