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London, Paris: Tale Of Two Austerity Drives …

  • October 22nd, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

uk-budget-3.jpg  COMMENTARY: Protesting crowds outside government buildings in London (21.10.10) did not look anything like the wild demonstrations in Paris, but the focus on austerity budgets was the same.

uk-budget-2.jpgThe new centre-right British government delivered its well-foreshadowed deep-cutting spending plan, projecting job losses for 490000 public employees over four years, with budget cuts for that period – except for health and schools – running to 19%.

There’ll be a new bank tax and extension of the retirement, and pension age from 65 to 66.

The reason given was the extent of the national deficit, Europe’s largest; pumped up in a large part by stimulus spending during the global recession, and blamed on the previous Labour government.

The Labour Opposition branded the new moves unfair, pointing to emerging statistics on an unequal distribution of impacts; and also extreme – not leaving enough for growth to occur, or continued recovery from recession.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, said on BBC radio his plan was decisive and fair also, through avoiding more extreme proposals; and it would provide its own kind of buffer against any new  economic down-turn.  .

“Then the problem of high deficits would flare up, and in that case you would want to absolutely affirm you have a plan in place to deal with that,” he said.

In France the campaign of opposition to new laws on retirement rights, due for a vote in the national Senate on Friday, kept its momentum.

Queues of ships waited at major ports to unload oil and other products, held up by strikes; daily life continued but was slowed, especially, by shortages of fuel at service stations – and by train services either cut, or running as operations-escargot – go-slow, at snail’s pace.

As in the United Kingdom the government austerity moves – in this case extension of the age for drawing pensions –  were defended as necessary to get rid of a burden of heavy public debt.

They were opposed from the centre and left, as a dampener on economic recovery, and as socially divisive, because ideological on the part of conservative governments (low income tax, weak government services), and redistributive (shifting the wealth balance from have-nots to haves).

Reference

Ilona Billington, Dow Jones, “UK Chancellor Osborne Defends Strict Austerity Budget”, Wall Street Journal, NY, 21.10.10. http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20101021-705005.html, (21.10.10).

Le Monde, Paris, Blocages, barrages filtrants, manifestations …, (blockages, pickets, demionstrations …) , 21.10.10. www.lemonde.fr, (21.10.10).

Pictures   UK protests, greenparty, socialistparty

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