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Foreign Exchange

FX news: Markets shrugs off UK debt

It wasn’t a good week for UK debt figures. On Monday the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) published a study purporting to show the real state of public finances. It estimated the UK’s true public debt at £2 trillion compared with official figures of around £900 billion. This wasn’t a total surprise; the right-wing think tank Centre for Policy Studies estimated £2.2 trillion back in November last year.

But worse was to come. On Wednesday The Independent revealed that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimates public finances are more like £4 trillion in the hole. This is apparently the first official attempt at drawing up a complete UK balance sheet. The report includes items that are classified as off balance-sheet, such as the future costs of state pensions, the underfunding of public sector pensions, the cost of the financial market bailout and payments under the public finance initiative. The financial community can hardly preach when it comes to off balance-sheet accounting, but a four-fold worsening of the state of the nation’s finances makes for a worrying parallel with Greek mythology (ancient or modern, you choose.)

So, if the ONS’s latest numbers are right, that’s £65,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.

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