Not bold enough, not green enough, just not enoughPublished by Tony Juniper on Thu, 25/03/2010 - 12:00am
This budget is simply marking time before the election. We should have seen bolder ideas to create a sense of fairness, security and economic stability, but we will have to wait until after the country has gone to the polls. So it is perhaps not surprising that yesterday's announcement was so disappointing.
The Chancellor could have acted unilaterally to introduce a Tobin-style tax on international currency transactions, instead of hiding behind the countries which don't want to do it. Reckless bankers have taken so much out of our economy and it is the poorer people who will feel the most pain in putting it right. Intervention here could have helped to address this gross injustice, at least in part.
There is also not enough evidence that this Government is committed to addressing social inequality. Unlike the other parties, the Greens argue that increases in taxation for the better off are required. Even with growth forecasts downgraded, Labour's plans depend upon wishful thinking about how quickly the economy and tax revenues will recover.
The Government is unwilling to tell us about the cuts and tax rises to come. The Conservatives will cut public spending, but have not put forward a plan that adds up to remotely enough cuts without tax increases to cut the deficit. The Green Party will be open about what we would cut, what we would defend, and about the fact that we need to raise taxation from 36 per cent of GDP in 2009/10 to around 45 per cent in 2013.
The point-scoring over the Chancellor's announcement of tax information exchange with Belize and other countries disguised the fact that he didn't go far enough in clamping down on tax evasion which costs us an estimated £15bn a year. There ought to be a transparent international accounting standard, requiring companies to report on a country-by-country basis so profits can be located and taxed.
Mr Darling could also have been bolder with ideas for getting people back to work. A nationwide programme to insulate homes would create 350,000 training places over the next year. The more people we can get into employment, the greater the revenues available to the state to provide the services people need. I welcome the investment to back low-carbon industries. Historically, the private sector has failed when it comes to investing in green industry and there needs to be more of an incentive from government. But the green investment fund proposed today is far too small.
Pensioners are still left behind: they need a non-means-tested state pension, set at £170 a week. Mr Darling should have been raising billions by cutting Trident, ID cards, and the prison building programme.
Originally published by The Independent.