The Times reports that Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, predicts that quantitative easing, which has been on hold since 2012, will be revived in August, with an extension of the Funding for Lending Scheme, which provides cheap finance for major lenders in an attempt to get credit flowing.
QE – as currently administered – sees the Bank pumping money into the financial system by buying bonds from financial institutions. Adam Marshall, acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the employers’ group would support more QE in principle “given the exceptional circumstances of the Brexit vote”. However, he called for QE to be overhauled and “aimed at injecting money into corporates and small and medium-sized companies”.
Others would advocate more widely beneficial applications; a new-generation quantitative easing programme could stimulate the economy, boost employment and tackle climate change instead of – as before – simply adding more cash to bank balance sheets and inflating asset prices.
The latest policy proposal is Green Infrastructure Quantitative Easing (GIQE). Last year, economist Richard Murphy addressed the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to present this in detail as a programme that would buy bonds issued by the Green Investment Bank to fund making every building in the UK energy efficient, and, where feasible, fitted with solar panels, which would reduce energy bills and in the process tackle fuel poverty and cut greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it would fund sustainable energy projects and enable local authorities to pay for new houses, NHS trusts to build new hospitals and education authorities to build schools.
This concept of directing quantitative easing to fund the greening of the UK’s infrastructure was first included in the 2013 report ‘A National Plan for the UK’, issued by the Green New Deal Group, convened by Colin Hines.
The new economics foundation also published a substantial 2013 report ‘Strategic quantitative easing’, apparently targeted at the banking world, with an extensive analysis of the current monetary system and applications of quantitative easing and a reference to its role in increasing exports in addition to the Green Deal and housebuilding references.
MP Caroline Lucas persuasively summarised the proposal in the New Statesman:
“GIQE could contribute to strengthening the UK economy via a carefully costed, nationwide programme to train and employ a ‘carbon army’. This army would be at the frontline of the fight against cold homes by making all of the UK’s 30 million buildings energy efficient, and, where feasible, fitted with solar panels. This would, in the first instance, dramatically reduce energy bills and fuel poverty, whilst also cutting greenhouse gas emission and cutting current dependence on imported energy.
“Secondly, a GIQE programme could also help tackle the housing crisis by financing the construction of new affordable housing that’s highly energy efficient and built predominantly on brownfield sites.
“Thirdly, GIQE could help finance improved regional public transport networks to help revitalise local and regional economies. That’s more and better buses, trains and coaches, helping people to get around their communities and stay connected . . .
“It’s time that both the Government and the Opposition, rather than continuing to hand money over to the banks as they have done since the financial crisis, will seriously consider this plan to build a resilient economy, protect our shared environment and create thousands of new well paid jobs.”