Putin’s war in Ukraine has highlighted gross vulnerabilities in global trade, and the devastating impact that changes in energy and food supplies can have on millions of lives across the world.
Globalisation has of course brought huge benefits in terms of both economic and social development across the world.
But it has also enabled trading channels to be ‘weaponised’.
Geopolitical manoeuvres have a fundamental and profound impact on the security of our lives here in the UK – both in its immediacy but also in its breadth.
The reality of the global energy supply crisis is higher energy bills here and around the world.
It is absolutely right that the government prioritises support for households through the Energy Price Guarantee and for businesses with the Energy Bill Relief Scheme.
And there is more help available locally with, for instance, the Alton Energy Advice Clinic now running regular drop-in sessions for people wanting advice on how best to reduce their bills.
The East Hampshire Citizens Advice team also continue to offer their invaluable advice online, by phone or in person.
But the broader impact on the economy means that further action is necessary to try and dampen the growing inflationary pressures we are seeing.
Although interest rates are still low by historic standards – and we have certainly become used to very low levels in recent years – the rise in rates will be felt by many households through an increase in mortgage costs.
I am acutely conscious that this, along with food and energy price rises, presents significant difficulties for many families.
In this context, a bold plan for growth is called for.
And that is the driving force behind the Growth Plan announced by the Chancellor last week.
The ambition to get back to a 2.5 per cent growth rate may not sound that big a change, but it is huge.
Economic growth is ultimately how we afford improvements and the public services we all rely on every day.
We know that our post-pandemic health services remain under pressure.
And growing demands on our National Health Service and other public services will mean more funding pressures to come.
Generating more and faster growth in the economy means we will be better placed to afford those increases, and to push for a better standard of living for everyone.
Productivity in the UK has been below international comparators like the US and Germany my whole life.
But it has been a particular challenge since the financial crisis of 2007/8.
Keeping tax low for business will help encourage investment in technology and jobs – which in turn promotes growth.
The launch of 38 new Enterprise Zones will bring further targeted support and tax breaks to key areas across the country.
Boosting the UK’s competitiveness in key sectors such as high tech, research and finance will help bring more investment and income to the UK, particularly in areas where our expertise already leads the world.
One really bright spot in the economy continues to be our low rate of unemployment – the lowest since 1974.
More people are working and earning than ever before, and that is an incredibly valuable thing.
Helping people into work remains hugely important.
We need to ensure that all of the individual talent and creativity we have here in the UK is given the opportunity to thrive.
Small businesses remain the backbone of our local economy, and helping them succeed is critical for the growth we need.
The government’s approach outlined in the Growth Plan is new and it is certainly bold.
In these are extraordinary times we do need to reach for extraordinary measures.
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