Saturday, 11 May 2013

Hype wars: Return of the FDI?

Here's the propaganda: Chancellor George Osborne has pulled off a massive coup by personally negotiating a deal to secure the next film in the blockbuster Star Wars saga will be made in the UK.

George Osborne has not been shy about hyping his own success in making this happen:
"It is clear evidence that our incentives are attracting the largest studios back to the UK.

"I am personally committed to seeing more great films and television made in Britain."
Yes, there's our doughty chancellor securing foreign direct investment (FDI) to Britain and securing a healthy future for the UK film industry ... or so he'd want you to believe ...

Here's the reality: previous Star Wars films (in fact the first four) have been made (entirely or substantially) in the UK too, so this is hardly breaking new ground or attracting new business to our shores.

It's also worth analysing what Osborne means when he talks about "our incentives". What that means is that even if just a quarter of the film's production occurs within the UK, then the producers (Lucasfilm) can claim back tax relief on 80% of the full budget. This is a colossal tax break - and is basically offering multinational firms a tax avoidance scheme - giving them the option to reassign profits from elsewhere to the UK.

Hailing this as some kind of success story - when in reality it represents a race to the bottom on tax (i.e. governments prostrating themselves to business)  - is typical of a chancellor who hailed the 'Irish miracle' in 2006 for its slashed corporation tax, shortly before that economy spectacularly imploded.

Of course, Osborne's economic strategy is based on slashing taxes for business and the super-rich. What underpins the Chancellor's thinking is either a deeply flawed belief in Hayekian economics or more crudely a policy of class war: reducing taxes on the wealthy while slashing services and entitlements for everyone else.

Far from being return of the FDI, this is more the (evil) empire fights back ...

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