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2015 is going to be the biggest year for privatisation in Britain ever

Published by Business Insider on Sat, 11 Jul 2015

Britain's Chancellor George Osborne dropped apretty incredible statistic in Wednesday's Budget in a throwaway line that hardly anyone has picked up on.Early on in his speech to Parliament Osborne said: "Indeed, the sale of government assets this year will deliver the largest privatisation proceeds of all time, higher than the previous record in 1987."The Conservative Party plans to raise31 billion ($47.7 billion) this year by selling off publicly owned assets,the most ever raised from privatisation in a single year. Even when adjusted for inflation it beats the previous record by 10 billion ($15.4 billion). The record was set in 1987 at the height of Margaret Thatcher's privatisation boom. Back then the centerpiece sell-off was the 7.2 billion ($11 billion) privatisation of BP.31 billion is a colossal amount of money to raise but what's craziest is the fact that nobody seems to notice. When Royal Mail was privatized in 2013 it dominated the headlines. But the amount raised then is trivial compared to the total the government is planning to raise this year, as the chart above shows.Themain reason all this is flying under the radar is becausemost ofthe money is coming from selling things we shouldn't own anyway. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is forecasting that the government will raise 13 billion ($20 billion) of the total selling off shares in Lloyds this year.A similar amount is expected to be raised selling off mortgages the government bought when it bailed out Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley.These, combined with a sell-off of Royal Bank of Scotland shares, make up the bulk of the cash being raised this year, as the chart below shows. (UKAR owns the mortgage assets.)Other more controversial privatisation schemes include selling off the studentloan book. The government is also mulling plans to privatize the Green Investment Bank, which was set up under the coalition tofinance environmental businesses.The Conservatives arerushing to get all these assets off their books not only because they believe in small government (although they may well do), but because they've committed to reducing the country's public debt burden.But here's the kicker from the OBR: "Financial asset sales typically bring forward cash that would otherwise have been received later in mortgage repayments and dividends, so they only reduce net debt temporarily."Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland would have offered a steady income flow to the government, as would the mortgages.Instead, theConservatives are spending future cash now to pay down debt. Thatdoesn't look like a sustainable solution to solving the country's fiscalproblem and could come back to haunt them ' or, if they're lucky, future governments.Join the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: We can't stop watching President Obama launch into 'Amazing Grace' at Pinckney's eulogy
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