UK Borrowing Dips To 17-Year Low

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A nation state must always balance its books. This means that any shortfall between what a nation receives in tax receipts (and any other income streams) and what it spends must be met by borrowing money on the international money markets. This is usually done via the issuance of government bonds which can be redeemed for the face value, but pay interest over the life-time of the bond. The shortfall is known as the (current account) deficit and the cumulative borrowing over time is the national debt. To date, British governments have racked up a total debt of £2.18 trillion. According to nationaldebtclock.co.uk, it increases at a dizzying rate of £5170 per second! The national debt costs approximately £48 billion to service per annum in interest payments; this is the equivalent of about 4% of the nation’s GDP (and about 8% of HMG’s tax revenues).

Against the backdrop of the national debt, the fact that the UK public borrowing level has dropped to a 17-year low is hardly the cause of unconfined joy, but better than nothing.

During the 2018-2019 financial year, UK borrowing came in at £24.7 billion which was £17.2 billion less than for the previous financial year. However, the Office for Budget Responsibility had anticipated a deeper cut in borrowing, the undershoot as blamed on higher than anticipated spending on goods and services by the government.

The borrowing figures equate to roughly 1.2% of the nation’s GDP. The historical average figure for the UK is 2.45% (1948 to date), but the magnitude of GDP as an absolute value has increased very considerably over this period. At the height of the Global Financial Crisis, borrowing spiked at !0% of GDP.

To put the interest rate payment costs for servicing the national debt in perspective (£48 billion) it is roughly four times what the UK pays to be a member of the EU (before the rebate is taken into consideration which would boost the figure to nearly eight times the cost!).

Dr. Mike Campbell is a British scientist and freelance writer. Mike got his doctorate in Ghent, Belgium and has worked in Belgium, France, Monaco and Austria since leaving the UK. As a writer, he specialises in business, science, medicine and environmental subjects.