It’s official. The UK is out of recession.
According to the government’s statisticians, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the economy grew last quarter by 0.1%, ending six consecutive quarters of negative growth and bringing to a close the longest recession since before the Second World War.
So that’s good news right? Surely it’s time to roll out the bunting and crack open the champagne (well, Asti, given the current market) and put on some B.B.King?
Well not according to some.
Despite the hopes of services shaking the banker bonus tree, it seems one or two commentators are not quite ready to sing along just yet. But then perhaps that’s to be expected as we languish in the post-festive-pre-payday gloom. So it seems Blue Monday has slipped into a Terrible Tuesday.
Indications are that any growth is likely to remain anaemic, and this has led some cabinet members to be reportedly fearful of taking any responsibility for something that in most scenarios would be classed as ‘good news’. But then perhaps that is sensible given the possibility of a return to negative growth in Q1 2010, which would be reported statistically 11 days before the likely day of the general election, 6th May.
With the two major parties preparing to draw the battle lines along how best to sustain the ‘recovery’, any such figures would not exactly enhance the incumbents’ self-proclaimed reputation for economic competence, a point not really helped by what seem now to be rather optimistic growth expectations for this year and next year. They can, however, take comfort from not being the only ones caught out.
So what now and what’s in store for the ‘fledging recovery’? Well, any sort of long-term plan would be useful. The Daily Telegraph points to private sector investment and overseas growth as areas to deliver the growth needed to rescue us from being stunted by the fiscal stimulus plans. That does not seem to be evident yet, however, and certainly nowhere near on the systematic scale seen in China, which clearly recognises the importance of scientific research and retention of knowledge as the key to its future.
Perhaps a change of perception? The Daily Telegraph talks about a two-speed global economy with opportunities being thrown up by the turmoil surrounding fiscal exit strategies.
But then perhaps we are justified in being wary of celebrating GDP growth if the New Economics Foundation paper yesterday is to be believed. With developed nations assuming continual growth, perhaps the view is just flawed. They illustrate this point with a short video called ‘The Impossible Hamster’. If a hamster doubled in size every week for a year, it would weigh 9 billion tonnes – enough to give Freddie Starr serious indigestion. So why should we assume GDP should continue growing, particularly when we consider that environmental concerns may pin back the recovery over the long term?
Food for thought indeed.
So, let’s look on the bright side (for the time being at least) – the days are getting longer, payday is nearly here and if Freddie feels peckish, he’ll probably opt for a Chinese hamster instead. As Frankie Boyle has been heard to say, "Help yourself to nibbles – (he was our favourite hamster…..)"