Moulton calls for 'more strenuous and honest cuts'

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The Independent Online

A "morally honest" programme to reduce the budget deficit is called for today by Jon Moulton, Britain's most famous private equity entrepreneur and the public face of the industry.

In a pamphlet for the Centre for Policy Studies, Mr Moulton, perhaps best known for his abortive attempt to buy MG Rover from BMW in 2000, argues that "more strenuous and rapid cuts in government spending are needed".

Mr Moulton adds: "Despite the depth of the recession, the immediate consequences have been remarkably mild. For example, the rate of corporate failure has been very low by historic standards.

"The recession of the early 1990s was only one third as deep as the current one, yet corporate insolvencies then ran at six times the level of today.

"Low interest rates, more printing of money and massive government support of businesses (unpaid corporate taxes now total about £30bn) are unsustainable.

But, he cautions: "Attempting to solve the difficulties of too much debt by using more debt and making that debt tolerable is the same as treating heroin addiction with more heroin. The addict may feel better but the problem grows. The debt is still there, and bigger, the day after."

Mr Moulton has been consistent in his message. Early on in the recession he told MPs, in evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, much the same thing and the mushrooming of government borrowing since then has vindicated him, at least according to his supporters.

Mr Moulton adds: "There is an alternative: to take more pain now and get the deficit down quickly. While this would mean more unemployment and business failure in the short term, it would provide a much better base for future growth. And would be far more morally honest."

After a long association with Alchemy partners, Mr Moulton walked away in September 2009 to found a new firm, Better Capital. Last April it backed a £13m management buyout of the UK operations of Reader's Digest.