Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Science & Tech
  2. Coronavirus
12 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Why paying off our coronavirus debts won’t be difficult, but achieving growth will

By Samuel Horti

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s extension of the government’s furlough scheme adds vast sums to a growing cost of the pandemic and confirms that the government will be supporting incomes for the foreseeable future. But Sunak doesn’t need to worry about the size of the debt, argues New Statesman political editor Stephen Bush.

The government will be able to pay its debts as the UK grows vastly wealthier over time, a point proved by history, he writes. “In 1835, the British government took out a loan of £20m to reimburse slaveowners when it abolished slavery, which was then a vast sum and far in excess of anything governments had ever borrowed for one-off expenditure before, equivalent to around £17bn in today’s money. The taxpayer finally finished paying off that loan in 2015.”

The bigger problem is achieving growth, he argues. You can read why in the full piece.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them