Last month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his Eat Out to Help Out program.
And last week, I helped myself achieve this by having dinner at my local Chinese restaurant.
When the bill came in, it was about half of what it would have been.
Thanks to Mr Sunak, two of us had eaten for not much more than £ 20.
Well done to him, I thought for a moment, raising a glass.
And then the little thrill started to fade. “When was I going to pay for this?” I thought. After all, we’ll all have to do it at some point.
They say there is no free lunch. Well, there is definitely no free or half price dinner.
The government only has money because it collects it from us in the form of taxes.
When it bribes or encourages us, with programs like Eat Out to Help Out, it is easy to lose sight of that fact.
Of course, anything that can be done to stimulate our service economy is a good thing.
Across this country, our restaurants, shops and hotels are suffering like never before.
Certainly, the coronavirus has helped some local retailers.
Over the past few months, many of us have relied more than ever on stores that once lost to supermarkets in the frenetic rush of life before Covid.
For local butchers and others, this is their busiest time in years. Like Christmas months. And they deserve it.
But our inner cities still look like a zombie survival movie.
A few Saturdays ago I walked down Oxford Street in London in the morning and the cold that went through me had nothing to do with the weather.
It was the chill of a street that would normally be filled with shoppers now with only a few masked stragglers.
The truth is that since the Government first told us to stay in our homes in March, it has scared a large part of the population to stay indoors for the foreseeable future.
Today when he tries to kick us out of our homes it doesn’t help that the messages are so mixed up.
It is advisable to use public transport when it is not packed.
But at the same time, drivers are penalized like never before.
London’s congestion tax has exploded again, punishing drivers more than ever. So what are we supposed to do?
These contradictory messages prevent the reopening of our city centers when they must start to explode again.
So it is true that our retail economy needs a lifeline.
The Chancellor’s plan to give us money on our meals if we eat out Monday through Wednesday is one way to achieve this.
The problem is, this will all have to be paid for for a day.
Unless our economy soon starts to take off again, the bill will be much higher and more painful than anyone currently wants to say.
Government borrowing has grown faster this year than at any time on record.
The holiday program and many others have seen debt as a percentage of GDP exceed 100%.
This means that everything we are currently living on is borrowed. And like all debts, it will have to be repaid at some point.
I don’t know when I’ll pay for my lemon chicken from last week, or when the thousands of other people who took advantage of Eat Out to Help Out will pay for their meals. Maybe not.
Maybe our children or grandchildren will end up paying for the vast tab we have accumulated in 2020? Because the Chancellor’s plan is a drop in the ocean of government borrowing this year.
This country borrowed at a rate that never happened in peacetime.
And as a country, we have to find a way out of this mess.
Either way, we will have to prepare for tough economic times.
As the holiday program begins to end, the first cycles of redundancy are already starting to occur. If our country is to move forward, we can’t just hang around – we have to explode.
It demands that the British people be courageous.
It is true that many people with underlying health conditions will need to be careful.
We will all have to do our part to help protect them.
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But those of us who are not at serious risk from this virus are going to have to start over.
To come back to our city centers, our shops, pubs and restaurants. Earn money and spend it.
In short, to come back to those times when, if you had an invoice, you paid it yourself.
Reopening of schools
TEACHERS unions this week said it would be “impossible” to reopen schools next month.
So in September, at the start of the school year, teachers can go to the pub but not to class.
Where is the meaning? The disadvantages of not opening are obvious.
Many teachers have worked hard in the lockdown to provide something like normal education for students.
But others provided only a fraction of the education they would have.
Thousands of our children are at risk of effectively losing a year of education.
Just consider the effect it will have on each child.
It is natural that teachers’ unions want to look after their members.
It would be nice if they could also have a thought for the children of the nation.
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