CBI Director-General's views on the Autumn Statement

I just wanted to give my take on where we stand following the Chancellor’s autumn statement today. To my mind, this was overall positive news to help boost business growth and with your help and support we have managed to land a number of strong points which were picked up by the Chancellor.
The emphasis we have been putting on helping support medium sized businesses grow this year was recognised, when we saw the Chancellor announce a £1bn scheme to help secure funding for medium-sized firms, alongside £10m funding to help medium business boost their export potential. Our focus on helping bring forward private sector infrastructure investment for shovel-ready roads projects, such as road and rail developments, were top of the Chancellor’s list - good news for investors, developers and the construction supply chain. Another boost for construction jobs came in the shape of government picking up our proposals to help unfreeze the housing market and boost house building with mortgage indemnity guarantees to bridge the problem of loan-to-value ratio, as well as a £400m fund to get stalled construction projects going.

On energy, a £250m package of measures is good news to help protect energy intensive industries from the cost of energy policy and an area we have been working on for some time. Our proposals on getting young people back to work have been taken further by the Government and will encourage businesses to take a chance on inexperienced young people. On aviation, we are pleased to see the government coming off the fence and stating that we need a world-class hub airport in the South East to support business connections to all emerging market destinations. We need all options on the table here, including developing regional airport capacity to service overseas markets.

This all follows hot on the heels of the CBI annual conference last week which focused on growing international trade to make sure we win the potential prize of a £20 billion boost to the economy by 2020 if we get our exports strategy rights, selling more in high growth markets like Brazil, India, China and beyond. While the Prime Minister set the tone on the day for the economic challenges we face in the UK when he said: “Getting debt under control is proving harder than anyone envisaged”, our business leader speakers, the President of Turkey, the Foreign Secretary and the Trade Minister told a relentless story of the benefits of focusing on the opportunities from exporting more of our goods and services.

But there are still clouds on the horizon, with government cutting its growth forecasts down to 0.9% of GDP from 1.7% for 2011 and for next year down to 0.7% of GDP from 2.5%. The downgraded forecasts and outlook were no surprise - and chime with our own forecasts with all sectors facing tough trading conditions. It looks like growth will stall through the winter and economic conditions will be weak for some time. While government spending plans will remain unchanged over the period of the parliament, debt will peak at a higher level than previously thought but will still be declining by the end of the parliament. As the Chancellor said, his forecasts depend on the Eurozone crisis being resolved – a crisis that is clearly sapping business confidence.

Challenging times remain ahe

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