Managing Director’s Opening Remarks at United Kingdom Article IV Press Conference
October 29, 2020
Chancellor, thank you very much for your kind introduction. Ladies and
gentlemen, good morning. Over the last week we have been having virtual
meetings for our Article IV consultation for the British economy.
We meet at a time when the UK and the world are in the grip of the worst pandemic in a century. It has already taken an
enormous human toll and caused unprecedented economic disruption, including
in the UK, and unfortunately we are seeing a second wave hitting Europe.
Let me start by recognizing the enormous efforts the UK authorities have made to contain
the impact of the pandemic. The unprecedented package of fiscal, monetary,
and financial sector support measures has helped to sustain incomes, keep
unemployment down, and curb corporate insolvencies. It is one of the best examples of coordinated action that we have seen
globally. We welcome the continuing efforts the government has made to
refine its support measures, including adaptations to the Jobs Support
Scheme announced last week.
My main message today is that
continued policy support is essential to address the pandemic and to
sustain and invigorate a recovery. We welcome that the authorities have committed to deliver it as long as
necessary to manage expectations and boost confidence. The policy space
exists to do this.
Let me highlight three key points:
- First, it would be important to keep the special job and company support programs in place
until the direct impact of the pandemic on the economy subsides. This
extended safety net will reduce scarring and temper the unequal effects of
the crisis, and it can naturally sunset as the pandemic fades. Therefore,
we support an additional fiscal push, necessary to enhance
the safety net, but also to boost public investment. It offers an
opportunity to “build forward” and address the UK’s climate targets, reduce
regional inequality, and help those who do end up losing their livelihood.
- Second, while we do not think that policy rotation toward fiscal adjustment is imminent, it
cannot be ignored either. It will be essential for the government to
stabilize then reduce public debt ratios and begin to rebuild buffers.
Still, experience suggests that rotation to fiscal consolidation should
only happen once the private sector has durably picked up steam.
- Third, monetary policy should remain accommodative,
given the significant risk that inflation will undershoot targets. This can
be done by scaling up government bond purchases. Other tools like negative
rates can be brought in after further understanding is developed on their
application in the UK context.
Turning to the ongoing post-Brexit trade discussions, we
strongly encourage the UK and EU authorities to make every effort to reach
an agreement. Progress on a range of issues has been made over the past
year and there is room for a compromise beneficial to both sides. A
solution would remove important downside risks from the outlook. Regardless
of the outcome, it will be important to prepare the economy, firms, and
In sum, the UK economy is facing an extraordinarily challenging period. But the UK entered 2020 with advantages. It has strong
institutions, highly credible fiscal and monetary policy frameworks, and
flexible labor markets; households and corporations have strengthened their
balance sheets since 2008; banks remain well capitalized and liquid. The UK
has always risen to the challenges confronting it, and we have no doubt it
will respond to the present challenges with its usual resolve.
Let me conclude by recognizing the UK’s wider global leadership on the COVID response,
including vaccines and the contributions provided to the IMF for our
low-income lending facilities, and for debt relief. These contributions
will provide us with resources to help the least developed countries, who
face great needs at present — helping them will also help reduce global
instability for the benefit of all.
I am now happy to take your questions.
IMF Communications Department
Phone: +1 202 623-7100Email: MEDIA@IMF.org