《经济学人》:英国2011年财政预算,束手束脚
日期:2011-04-20 10:36

(单词翻译:单击)

This was not the radical reforming budget it had been billed as. But its heart was in the right place

虽不如它所标榜的“激进的、革新的预算”,但其动机还是积极的。

“THIS is not a tax-raising budget. But nor can we afford a giveaway.” Thus George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, drew the narrow parameters of his second budget on March 23rd. The broad sweep of the coalition government’s fiscal policy was set in Mr Osborne’s emergency budget last June, and in October’s four-year public-spending review. His task then was to fashion a deficit-reduction plan of tax increases and spending cuts to reassure bond markets of Britain’s creditworthiness. This time the chancellor was restricted to finding small pockets of extra revenue to finance modest but eye-catching tax breaks or subsidies.

“这不是一个增税的计划,但我们也负担不起减税了。”在3月23日,现任英国财政大臣乔治奥斯本,提出了他的第二套财政紧缩预算。早在去年六月奥斯本的紧急减赤预案中,已经全面地回顾了联合政府的财政政策,并于十月核查了四年公共支出。奥斯本的任务是旨在减少赤字的加税和减少公共开支,以保证英国在债券市场的信用。这次财政大臣能做的事情有限,只能计划收入小笔预算外融资,但适度、却醒目地提出减税优惠或补贴。

At least he did not come back for more money from taxpayers and spending departments. Nine months in, the plan to eliminate the structural deficit during this parliament is broadly on track. Public-sector net borrowing will be ??146 billion ($237 billion) or 9.9% of GDP this financial year, a few billion less than the Treasury estimated in June. The deficit in 2011-12 and beyond will be a shade higher as a share of GDP than on previous forecasts, but not much.

至少他没有向纳税人和消费部门要更多的钱。在今后九个月中,本届国会将全面出击致力于消除结构性赤字。在这一财务年,政府公共净举债1460亿英镑(毛2370亿英镑)GDP增长达9.9%,比财政部6月预计略低。在2011-2012年度及以后,GDP中赤字占比将高于先前预测,但相去不远。

This higher path reflects a slower pace of economic recovery rather than any let-up in the chancellor’s zeal for fiscal austerity. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the fiscal watchdog set up by Mr Osborne last year, has revised its forecast for this year’s GDP growth to 1.7% from 2.1% (the forecast for 2012 was nudged down to 2.5%). That change reflects the momentum lost in the 0.6% fall in GDP in the final quarter of 2010. The OBR reckons some of the drop in output will have been recovered during a sprightly first quarter in 2011 (it forecasts a 0.8% increase), though it has not revised up GDP growth in subsequent quarters. The OBR judges that the chancellor will meet his self-imposed fiscal targets.

这根赤字增加的扬线反映了经济复苏步伐放缓,但并不能说明财政大臣热衷于财政紧缩政策。奥斯本去年组建的预算责任办公室(OBR)履行着财政监督职责,其将今年的GDP增长从之前预测的2.1%,修订至1.7%(2012年预测微幅下调至2.5%)。这一变化反映了在2010年第4季度因增长乏力而使GDP降低0.6%。 OBR预测在11年第1季度将出现小幅攀升,预计为0.8%,但它并没有调整GDP在后几季度增长预期。OBR判断财政大臣将达成他制定的每一个财政年度目标。

With the big-picture stuff in place, Mr Osborne could administer a few small balms to the economy’s sorest spots. The costliest measure—and the one designed to capture the headlines—was the suspension of planned real-term increases in fuel duties for the life of the current parliament, together with an immediate one-penny per litre cut. That change will cost the Treasury ??1.9 billion in 2011-12, but will be more than paid for by an increased levy on North Sea oil producers, to capture the windfall gains from high crude prices. Mr Osborne justified this transfer from producers to consumers by noting that other oil-producing countries have tax systems that squeeze profits harder when oil prices are high. He said a sustained fall in the oil price below, say, $75 a barrel would prompt a reversal in the balance of taxation towards consumers.

正如图表显示,奥斯本的政策对英国经济阵痛点有些小疗效。其中最昂贵的一个举措、如同不少新闻头条报道的,他暂停了现有国会通过一项长期增加燃油税的决议,使汽油价格立竿见影地每公升跌了一便士。这项决定在2011-12年度将使英国财政额外支出19亿英镑,但向北欧石油生产商调高的增税预期会取得更多收益。奥斯本给生产商的理由是,其他石油生产国的税收制度,可以在原油涨价时调低利润值来保证油价,会从把利润从生产者向消费者转移。他说在下一个季度油价格将持续下跌,每桶75美元的原油价格将会进一步拉低单位油价,马上会使生产商和消费者之间的税收产生一个平衡。

Taxing the flush to help out the hard-pressed was a theme. The ??1 billion or so that will be raised by stopping businesses paying high earners in ways that sidestep income tax will be used to increase the personal tax-free allowance next year by a further ??630, to ??8,105, shielding more low-paid workers from tax. The revenue raised from an increase in the levy on bank assets will be used to fund a ??250m scheme in which the government will take an equity stake alongside house builders in newly built homes. The aim of the scheme is to bridge the gap between what homebuyers can offer as a deposit and what mortgage-lenders demand. Billed as support for first-time buyers, it is likely to help the depressed construction industry more.

拆东补西是此预算方案改革的主旋律。在预案中奥斯本将宣布一系列打击高收入者避税行为的措施,可能每年为政府带来10亿英镑的额外收入,此收入将在下一年用来进一步调高个税起征点630英镑,使起征额达到8105英镑,这将保护低收入人群,增加其净收入。政府将在建筑商新建住宅中提取一定所有权,以此向银行收取资产税,预计可收入2.5亿英镑,以此补贴首次购买新建住房者的贷款优惠,将严格区分出首次买房者的抵押需求和按揭贷款的需求。此政策支持首次置业者,并很可能帮助改善建筑业不景气的局面。

This sort of mild populism is mostly harmless—and understandable given the scale of the pre-announced spending cuts and tax increases that begin next month. But Mr Osborne had bigger ambitions for his package of measures. “Today’s budget is about reforming the nation’s economy,” he declared. “Britain has lost ground in the world economy and needs to catch up.”

这种温和的政策大部分是无害,会前宣布的削减开支规模以及宣布下月实施的增加税收方案亦是被公众所接受的。但奥斯本先生对整套措施信誓旦旦 “今天的预算案是为了改革国家的经济体制。”他宣称 “英国已经失去了在世界经济中的应有地位,我们必须要迎头赶上。”

The chancellor’s biggest anxiety is that Britain is no longer seen as a first choice for international businesses looking for a European base. To address this, he used what little money he could find to accelerate the cuts in business taxes announced in his first budget. The main corporate-tax rate will be cut by an extra percentage point in 2011-12 (from 28% to 26%), with further reductions bringing it to 23% by 2014-15. There will be more favourable tax treatment of the foreign earnings of British-based businesses, to help persuade footloose firms to stay.

财政大臣最大的担忧是,一些公司在欧洲拓展国际业务时,英国已经不再是首选之地。为了解决这个问题,他在第一财政预算案中尽可能加速削减了商业税。在2011-12年度企业营业税将从28%降至26%,比之前政府承诺的1%多降了一个百分点,到2014-15年度将进一步降低到23%。并将进一步对在英经营的外资公司出台更多的优惠政策,以鼓励他们长期在英发展。

It seems to be working: WPP, an advertising firm that moved to Dublin in 2008, has indicated it will return. On personal tax, Mr Osborne said that the 50% tax rate on incomes above ??150,000 a year “would do lasting damage” to the economy if it became permanent. He gave no timetable for its abolition but said he would ask Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs to assess how much money it actually raises.

此政策似乎有点作用:WPP广告公司,2008年迁移到都柏林,近期表示将返回英国经营。在所得税上,奥斯本说,15万英镑以上公司收入缴50%税如果成为长久政策,将会“持续损害”经济发展。他并没有给出废止该税率的时间表,但他说将要求英国税务及海关来评估废止的作用,以及将会给国家财政带来的利益。

The budget’s pro-enterprise message was strengthened by the extension of (fairly inexpensive) tax breaks for capital directed at new businesses. A three-year moratorium on new business regulations is promised for start-ups and firms with fewer than ten workers. Britain’s strict rules on development of new buildings will be relaxed; there will be extra perks in 21 new designated enterprise zones (see article). The chancellor also set aside ??275m to help improve the skills of young workers, by funding 80,000 work-experience placements, 50,000 new apprenticeships and extra investment in technical colleges.

预算加大了新办企业的税收优惠力度,主要是延长了新注册企业税收优惠政策(可以说相当便宜的运营)。一个新办并员工人数少于10人的公司可享受三年免税待遇。英国原来对新新建筑物严格规定也会放宽。有21个新办企业园区将得到额外补贴(见相关报道)财政大臣还拨款2.75亿英镑来帮助提高年轻工人的技能,其中包括资助提供8万个工作岗位和5万个实习岗位,并在技术学校加大额外投资。

These initiatives are unlikely to transform the economy. But their thrust is laudable. The cuts to corporate taxes sent the right signals, as did Mr Osborne’s invocation of Nigel Lawson, a tax-reforming chancellor of the 1980s.

这些刺激措施虽不能扭转经济大局,但它的主旨是值得嘉扬的。减免公司税赋释放了正面的讯息。在90年代的财政大臣奈杰尔劳森也采取了类似的做法。

Yet he seemed rather cool on big changes to the tax system. The Treasury will scrap 43 of the 47 tax reliefs identified as ripe for abolition by the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS), a body set up by Mr Osborne last year. That will remove over 100 pages from a tax code that has grown larger than India’s. But those reliefs are mostly redundant: they enlarge the tax code but do no real harm. The more radical OTS proposal to merge the tax and national-insurance systems will require “a great deal of consultation”, said Mr Osborne; it could take years to implement. Such wholesale reform is easier when there is money to throw around to compensate losers, as Lord Lawson once noted.

至今他对税制改革似乎得心应手。英国财政部的简化税收办公室(OTS)由是奥斯本去年组建的一个机构,OTS宣布将47项减免税项目中的43项废除。此举将在纳税手册中删除超过100页,这都超过印度的整本税册了。但此优惠没什么实际意思:虽然税单很长但是不伤皮毛的居多。比较激进的做法是,OTS提出了合并某些税收和国家保险系统,但奥斯本表示这还需要“大量的调研和磋商”并说可能要许多年时间才能实现。当年的财政大臣劳森亦曾指出,当有足够资金来补偿受损者并做到面面俱到,这种改革重组并不是难事。

The shortage of cash means this budget was a limited one. The size of the deficit and Mr Osborne’s commitment to shrinking it tied his hands. The deficit-reduction plan is front-loaded: more of the pain of adjustment is planned for the coming fiscal year than any other. Given the economy’s fragility, he could have postponed some of the discomfort and settled for higher borrowing in 2011. Instead he made a spirited defense of his plan A. Long-term interest rates are close to those of thrifty Germany, he said proudly, even though Britain’s budget deficit is bigger than in Portugal, Greece and Spain, countries that face far higher borrowing costs.

现金短缺意味着这个预算方案是束手束脚的。赤字规模和他当初削减赤字的承诺,使奥斯本无法大刀阔斧。赤字削减计划摆在他面前:调整将带来更多的痛苦,其负效应将在新的财政年显现出来。鉴于经济的脆弱性,他或许可以增加2011年国债,把某些预算改革案推迟进行。但相反地,他没有退缩并背水一战。他自豪地说,英国长期国债利率和节俭的德国相接近,尽管英国的预算赤字远高于葡萄牙、希腊和西班牙,但这几个国家的借贷成本都远高于英国。

He did not mention that a run of bad inflation figures (up to 4.4% in February) has made a fiscal U-turn trickier. Anxiety about the impact this year’s fiscal tightening will have on the economy is one factor that has so far deterred the Bank of England from raising interest rates. Three of the nine-strong monetary-policy committee voted for an increase this month. Any easing in the fiscal squeeze could easily tip the balance towards a rise.

预算中他并没有提到2月份通胀数据达到了4.4%,这个糟糕的数字使财政状况急转直下。整个财政年紧缩政策冲击所带来的市场焦虑,是妨碍英格兰银行加息的一个原因。与此同时,九强货币政策委员会投票决定了其中三个货币本月加息。对财政紧缩政策的任何放松,都有可能打破平衡,而最终带来进赤字增加。

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重点单词
  • moratoriumn. 延期偿付,延期偿付期间
  • shaden. 阴影,遮蔽,遮光物,(色彩的)浓淡 vt. 遮蔽,
  • transfern. 迁移,移动,换车 v. 转移,调转,调任
  • fragilityn. 脆弱,虚弱,易碎
  • adjustmentn. 调整
  • limitedadj. 有限的,被限制的 动词limit的过去式和过去
  • trackn. 小路,跑道,踪迹,轨道,乐曲 v. 跟踪,追踪
  • flushv. 奔流,发红,冲洗,迅速流过 n. 脸红,奔流,旺盛
  • previousadj. 在 ... 之前,先,前,以前的
  • compensatev. 偿还,补偿,付报酬