It was inevitable that the Chancellor would use his budget this week to provide short-term support and relief for businesses and the jobs they provide.
Most notably, the extension of Furlough until the end of September is an indication that the government understand that any recovery will be slow and that many companies are still in a very fragile state. Indeed, even with the latest set of measure announced, which also included a continuation of reduced VAT in the hospitality sector, business rates relief, and another round of bank loans, there are many firms who will do well to survive until the end of the year.
So, as much as his latest announcements are important for the immediate performance of the economy, did we find out much about his long-term ambition for growth and how he thinks that will happen?
There was some emphasis on skills, education, and training – with chunks of cash not only for the recently introduced Kickstart job creation scheme for young people, but also for apprenticeships and leadership and management training too.
There are also tax incentives for companies who invest in growth, which will be particularly welcomed by those entrepreneurs who always see opportunities in crisis.
The continued drive to devolve Westminster based government departments to the regions, alongside the Towns Fund, was a nod to ‘levelling up’ and the Northern Powerhouse, whilst the green light for a Freeport in Liverpool will be a much -needed boost for a city that has been struggling with some political turbulence in recent months.
However, all this seems like tinkering with the detail rather than offering a radical, visionary, ambitious plan for growth.
It can only be hoped that the inevitable tax hikes that we will all face to pay for the pandemic in the future will come alongside a strategy that includes big investment for the major infrastructure projects -digital connectivity, housing, roads, rail and even aviation – to make the remaining years of the decade enterprising, progressive, and prosperous.
Given his likeness of big, shiny projects, I think the Chancellor will find that this is the least his boss at Number 10 will expect too.