Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson coined the phrase “squeaky bum time” and the UK economy is in the midst of it.

In a week when Ferguson’s team celebrated their 20th league title, the challenges facing the UK economy and Chancellor George Osborne have never looked so strong with Osborne coming under renewed fire from all quarters over the state of the UK’s deficit reduction programme.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund called on the UK to slow down its reduction programme in a bid to boost the economy. IMF chief economist Oliver Blanchard urged the UK to rethink its economic policy but had been dismissed by the Government as just one voice. Since then Osborne has faced further criticism with both IMF head Christine Lagarde and deputy head David Lipton attacking the UK growth rate.

Then there was strike two from the triumvirate of ratings agencies as Fitch Ratings followed Moody’s in downgrading the UK credit rating from AAA to AA+, citing rising debt, slow deficit reduction and concern over the Eurozone.

Osborne has even come under fire the world’s largest bond fund manager as Pimco’s Bill Gross hit out at austerity measures made by the UK and much of the Eurozone, arguing that “you’ve got to spend money to produce growth.”

Having conceded in his 2013 Budget that he is not making “as much progress” as anyone would like in bringing down the national deficit, Osborne now faces more testing times in the next couple of weeks.

While the Fitch downgrade of the UK was not a huge surprise, the pressure will come when Standard & Poor’s downgrades the UK (as it is likely to do) and completes the set. Meanwhile, the IMF is set to conduct a full report into the nation’s finances in May; the pressure will be ramped up on Osborne if concerns around the deficit reduction programme come to fruition. The UK will also find out this week if it has slipped into a recession as GDP figures for the first quarter of 2013 announced, with economists split on the outcome.

Squeaky bum time indeed! One thing is for certain – Osborne will be fidgeting in his chair. Maybe he should take a page out of Manchester City’s book and spend, spend, spend.


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