PM Truss sorry for mini-budget ‘mistakes’
British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Monday, 17 October, apologized for her controversial mini-budget that crashed the country’s currency, rattled financial markets and led to her firing her finance minister and closest political ally.
In an exclusive interview, Truss insisted she would lead her Conservative Party into the next general election, despite her government is under huge pressure from investors and party members since the mini-budget was unveiled in late September.
“I do want to accept responsibility and say sorry for the mistakes that have been made. I wanted to act to help people with their energy bills to deal with the issue of high taxes, but we went too far and too fast,” Truss said.
“I put in place a new chancellor with a new strategy to restore economic stability.”
Last Friday, Truss replaced Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng with Jeremy Hunt, a former cabinet minister of multiple briefs who has stood for the leadership twice.
Hunt has since overturned many of her most significant leadership campaign pledges. Just four days into the job, he said he would reverse “almost all” tax measures announced three weeks ago by his predecessor. The stunning reversal would raise £32 billion ($36 billion), he said.
A proposed cut to the basic rate of income tax from April 2023 has been postponed “indefinitely.” And while the government has said it will still guarantee energy prices for households and businesses through this winter, it won’t commit to capping prices beyond next spring.
“No government can control markets, but every government can give certainty about the sustainability of public finances,” Hunt said. “The United Kingdom will always pay its way.”
Markets have settled somewhat in recent weeks, though only after major intervention from the Bank of England, leaked rumors that the mini-budget would be abandoned and reports – which proved true – that Kwarteng would be sacked.
The moves amount to a gutting of Truss’ flagship “growth plan” and leave her in a perilous political position.
The opposition Labor Party said Hunt’s statement highlighted how the government has made life harder for everyday people, as mortgage rates and other borrowing costs have spiked in recent weeks.
“We have to make sure though, that we have economic stability, and that has to be my priority as prime minister. I’ve acted in the national interest. I remain committed to the vision, but we will have to deliver that in a different way,” Truss told, after being asked whether her vision for Britain was “dead.”
Truss said she still believed in the “high growth, low tax” formula she campaigned on to win the Conservative Party leadership in early September – but said she recognized the UK was facing “very difficult circumstances at the moment.”
When asked whether she was a “prime minister in name only” after appointing a finance minister who “is executing a plan that’s a million miles away from your own,” Truss replied: “I knew that we had to act to protect economic stability, and that’s why I appointed Jeremy Hunt.”
“I’d been working very closely with the chancellor over the last few days to make sure that we have the right package in place, but it would have been completely irresponsible for me not to act in the national interest in the way where I have,” she said.
Truss added it was “painful” to sack her “friend” Kwarteng as finance minister but said she stood by her decision. She also apologized to her party’s lawmakers for her “mistakes” but said she would “move forward” and focus on delivering for the UK.
Constitutionally, the next general election does not need to take place until January 2025. There’s no guarantee that Truss will survive that long, though removing the Conservatives’ fourth leader in just over six years would be difficult in the short term due to party rules that protect her from a leadership challenge for the first year of her premiership.
UN says: Extraordinary economic dev among BD’s many achievements
Greeting Bangladesh, the United Nations on Sunday (26th March) said Bangladesh has many accomplishments — extraordinary economic development, a significant cultural legacy, leadership on a global stage for climate-vulnerable countries, and immense generosity in welcoming and hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees.
“The hospitality of Bangladesh’s diverse people is just one of the many facets of a country that my colleagues and I have been fortunate to experience every day,” UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Gwyn Lewis said in a press statement on the occasion of the country’s Independence Day.
“On behalf of the United Nations, I warmly congratulate the people of Bangladesh on the 52nd anniversary of independence,” she said.
Over the last 52 years, Bangladesh has made impressive and remarkable achievements: evolving from a war-torn country to one of the leading economic powers in South Asia, standing at the threshold of upcoming graduation from least developed countries (LDCs) in 2026, and planned achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDG) by 2030, she said.
The UN fully supports Bangladesh’s commitments to economic and sustainable development and appreciates the strong and long-lasting relationship with Bangladesh and our shared values.
The constitution of the country, which was adopted even before Bangladesh had formally become a member of the United Nations in 1974, guarantees fundamental human rights. The right to freedom of speech, religion, movement and assembly, the right to speak one’s own language and other rights that are in line with the UN charter, said the UNRC.
“Wishing you all a Happy Independence Day!” — she concluded.
South Asian Bourse Shrinks
South Asian Bourse or Stock Markets dropped last week. Among them, the biggest fall was in the stock markets of India and Pakistan.
A review of South Asian markets shows that India’s Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) index BSE Sensex has dropped 462 points during the week. At the end of the week, the index stood at 57,527 points. On the other hand, the Nifty-50 index of the country’s National Stock Exchange dropped by 467 points last week. At the end of the week, the index stood at 16,945 points.
Pakistan Stock Exchange Index ‘KSE 100’ lost 1,387 points last week. After a week of losing, the index settled at 39,942 points.
On the hand The Sri Lankan stock market hiked, the Colombo Stock Exchange index ‘ASPI’ lost 251 points in a week. After a week the index settled at 9,419 points.
Bhutan’s stock market index ‘BSI’ hiked by 23 point and the index stood at 1,127 points throughout the whole week. Nepal’s ‘NEPSE’ lost 18 points last week, as the index stands at 1,915 points.
Despite Banking turmoil in US, Interest rates Hikes
The US central bank has raised interest rates again, despite fears that the move could add to financial turmoil after a string of bank failures.
The Federal Reserve increased its key rate by 0.25 percentage points, calling the banking system “sound and resilient”.
But it also warned that fallout from the bank failures may hurt economic growth in the months ahead.
The Fed has been raising borrowing costs in a bid to stabilize prices.
But the sharp increase in interest rates since last year has led to strains in the banking system.
Two US banks – Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank – collapsed this month, buckling in part due to problems caused by higher interest rates.
There are concerns about the value of bonds held by banks as rising interest rates may make those bonds less valuable.
Banks tend to hold large portfolios of bonds and as a result, are sitting on significant potential losses. Falls in the value of bonds held by banks are not necessarily a problem unless they are forced to sell them.
Authorities around the world have said they do not think the failures threaten widespread financial stability and need to distract from efforts to bring inflation under control.
Last week, the European Central Bank raised its key interest rate by 0.5 percentage points.
The Bank of England is due to make its own interest rate decision on Thursday, a day after official figures showed that inflation unexpectedly shot up in February to 10.4 percent.
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed remained focused on its inflation fight. He described Silicon Valley bank as an “outlier” in an otherwise strong financial system.
But he acknowledged that the recent turmoil was likely to drag on growth, with the full impact still unclear.
Forecasts released by the bank show officials expect the economy to grow just 0.4 percent this year and 1.2 percent in 2024, a sharp slowdown from the norm – and less than officials projected in December.
The announcement from the Fed also toned down earlier statements which had said “ongoing” increases in interest rates would be needed in the months ahead.
Instead, the Fed said: “Some additional policy firming may be appropriate”.
The moves “signal clearly that the Fed is nervous”, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Wednesday’s rate rise is the ninth in a row by the Fed. It lifts its key interest rate to 4.75%-5%, up from near zero a year ago – the highest level since 2007.
Higher interest rates mean the cost to buy a home, borrow to expand a business or take on other debt goes up.
By making such activity more expensive, the Fed expects demand to fall, cooling prices.
That has started to happen in the US housing market, where purchases have slowed sharply over the last year and the median sales price in February was lower than it was a year ago – the first such decline in more than a decade.
But overall the economy has held up better than expected and prices continue to climb faster than the 2% rate considered healthy.
Inflation, the rate at which prices climb, jumped 6% in the 12 months to February. The cost of some items, including food and airfare, is surging even faster.
Before the bank failures, Mr. Powell had warned that officials might need to push interest rates higher than expected to bring the situation under control.
The bank projections show policymakers expect inflation to fall this year – but less than expected a few months ago.
Still, they forecast interest rates of roughly 5.1% at the end of 2023 – unchanged since December – implying the Fed is poised to stop raising rates soon.
Mr Powell described the effect of the recent turmoil as the “equivalent of a rate hike”.
He said the Fed may be able to raise its key rate less aggressively, if the turmoil in the financial system prompts banks to limit lending, and the economy to slow more quickly.
But he repeated that the Fed would not shy away from its inflation fight.
“We have to bring down inflation down to 2%,” he said. “There are real costs to bringing it down to 2% but the costs of failing are much higher.”
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