Britain’s finance minister Rishi Sunak will promise on Wednesday to do “whatever it takes”, including a five-month extension of a huge jobs rescue plan, to steer the economy through what he hopes will be the final months of COVID restrictions.
Sunak has already racked up Britain’s highest borrowing since World War Two and he will turn to the bond markets again in his budget speech, saying the task of fixing the public finances will only begin once a recovery is in sight.
“We’re using the full measure of our fiscal firepower to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people,” Sunak will say, according to excerpts of his speech which is due to begin around 1230 GMT.
“First, we will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis,” he will tell parliament.
“Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances – and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that. And, third, in today’s budget we begin the work of building our future economy.”
Britain has suffered the biggest COVID-19 death toll in Europe and the heaviest economic shock among big rich countries, according to headline measures of official data. It shrank by 10% last year, its worst slump in three centuries.
Sunak has so far spent almost 300 billion pounds on emergency support measures and tax cuts.
Many companies are also under strain from Brexit after Britain left the European Union’s single market on Jan. 1 and the government faces the challenge of huge investment to meet its promise to create a net zero carbon economy by 2050.