Robert Peston, economics editor

Robert Peston Economics editor

Welcome to Peston's Picks - for my latest thoughts on the big economic events around the world making us richer or poorer

Is Osborne right that a smaller state means a richer UK?

  • 29 September 2014
  • From the section Business
George Osborne

What mattered about George Osborne's speech today was its confirmation that voters face a significant economic and social choice at the next general election.

If the UK's relationship with the European Union does not drown out everything else, it is the size of the state - and especially the scale of subsidies for out-of-work and low-income families - which will be the main battleground.

This will be a choice about how much public spending should be reduced after May 2015, about whether taxes should rise, and about whether benefits for working age people should be increased or frozen.

Underlying these choices, as I mentioned last week when Ed Balls outlined his plans to Labour's conference, is a significant difference between the two big parties' plans to eliminate the deficit: the Tories want a surplus on all government spending, including investment, by 2018/19; Labour is aiming to balance the current budget, excluding investment, by 2020.

That difference means a Tory government would have to find £28.3bn more of spending cuts or tax rises than Labour, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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The end of growth in the West?

  • 26 September 2014
  • From the section Business
HM Treasury

Depending on which central banker I bump into, or what day of the week it is, those charged with providing some kind of momentum to our economies and maintaining financial stability tell me either that the rich world is at long last at the beginning of an economic recovery strong enough to require a rise in interest rates or is doomed to decades of stagnation.

This apparent contradiction hangs on the disjunction between the resumption of growth in the US and UK, on the one hand, and the much more dour and downbeat message contained in the 25-year yield curve for government bonds of the developed economies (sorry if this sounds tediously technical but, cross-my-heart-hope-to-die, this stuff matters to you).

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Why does government do less for the North East than Scotland?

  • 24 September 2014
  • From the section Business
Scottish and British flags

It did not feature much on the conference platform, but in the hurly burly of Labour's conference in Manchester the so-called English question loomed large - or what impact the planned, if vague, new constitutional settlement for Scotland should have on the way England is governed (and Wales and Northern Ireland too).

I stumbled on three themes.

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Does Labour have the cash to expand the NHS?

  • 23 September 2014
  • From the section Business
Labour conference

Soak the London metropolitan rich and other putative baddies to pay for the NHS.

That will be the, perhaps, quaintly old-fashioned leftist and populist message of Ed Miliband's speech to Labour's conference today.

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Can Balls be just austere enough?

  • 22 September 2014
  • From the section Business
Ed Balls Labour Conference

Ed Balls here at Labour's conference in Manchester has a difficult trick to pull off.

He wants to be seen to be austere and fiscally righteous - so that investors in Britain do not become anxious that Britain's high public sector deficit, which is currently running at around 6% of national income, would persist for many years yet.

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Which budget will matter?

  • 19 September 2014
  • From the section Business
Raspberry sponge cake with slice taken out

As and when decisions on income taxes, welfare and public spending are devolved to the nations, what will be the status of the budget and autumn statement for the whole UK?

Will they, for example, be more or less important than the budget for the biggest nation, England?

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Tax and spending devolution: for richer or poorer?

  • 19 September 2014
  • From the section Business
Four knights battle for advantage

The big question about the Prime Minister's plan to hand more control over taxes, spending and welfare to the four nations is how far this would end the subsidy of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by England, and especially by London and the South East.

For all that it may sound attractive to the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish to have greater influence over their respective economic destinies, presumably that would be less desirable if at a stroke they became poorer.

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Economists can't tell Scots how to vote

  • 16 September 2014
  • From the section Business
Scotland border sign with flag in background

Here is the bad news if you haven't made up your mind whether to vote for Scotland to become independent - economic analysis cannot give you the answer.

That is partly because this dismal science is not capable of giving wholly (and sometimes even partly) accurate forecasts about the future prosperity of nations.

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How Scotland can avoid a credit crunch

  • 15 September 2014
  • From the section Business
Saltire

So is Deutsche Bank right that Scotland seceding would have a depressive impact comparable to Britain returning to the Gold Standard in 1925 or the US Federal Reserve failing to pump cash into US banks on the eve of the Great Depression?

No, according to senior bankers - whose institutions will have a decisive influence on the immediate economic and financial costs of Scottish separation.

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What is really driving capital from the UK?

  • 13 September 2014
  • From the section Business
Mark Carney, Bank of England governor
Mark Carney says the interest rate cycle is on the turn in the UK, which is partly behind capital flowing out

There is something slightly odd about the links being widely made between the large capital outflows from the UK in July and August to fears that Scotland would vote for independence.

At the time, opinion polls and bookies' odds were showing a very high probability of Scots voting to stay in the union. There was no evidence of investors being anxious about Scottish independence then.

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About Robert

Robert has won numerous awards for his journalism, including Journalist of the Year, Specialist Journalist of the Year and Scoop of the Year (twice) from the Royal Television Society, Performer of the Year from the Broadcasting Press Guild, and Broadcaster of the Year and Journalist of the Year from the Wincott Foundation.

Prior to joining the BBC, he was political editor and financial editor of the Financial Times, City Editor of the Sunday Telegraph and a columnist for the New Statesman and Sunday Times.

He broadcast and published a series of influential reports about the causes and consequences of the global financial crisis.

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