AS 2022 draws to a close, it seems in many ways that the economic situation is bleaker than it was even during the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the direct economic effect of the pandemic was at times truly daunting in terms of its scale and the widespread nature of shutdowns and restrictions, it was always going to be time-limited.

It is at times difficult to conceive, given the current dismal economic situation and grim outlook, that it was only earlier this year that there was such a resurgence of hope as the remaining coronavirus-related restrictions came to an end in the UK and in many other countries.

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This bounce sadly proved shorter-lived than many might have expected in the UK, as the country was hit by a full-blown inflation crisis as well as continuing to pay the price for the ruling Conservatives’ hard Brexit.

We moved very quickly from talk of a bounce as we emerged from the pandemic to the seeming inevitability of a protracted recession, and the prospect of a sharp rise in unemployment.

In an interview published in The Herald today, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick highlights his sense that there is now, after all that has happened, a sense of “weariness” among businesses.

Commenting on his impressions from a tour of Glasgow Chamber members over the last couple of months, Mr Patrick said: “Usually what you get is, ‘Isn’t everything going to hell in a handcart but we are okay'. You do still get that – a sense of, ‘We have a strategy, we have a business plan’. I got a sense more of a weariness now that I hadn’t [previously] … All the way through Covid – [there was a sense] there is a big issue to be tackled but an energy about tackling it. I get this sense of weariness at the moment.”

It is easy to see why the energy of businesses and households might have been sapped so much, after a very difficult few years and given the monumental turbulence they have faced in recent months.

UK base rates have been raised from their record low of 0.1 per cent in December last year to 3.5%. Annual UK consumer prices index inflation was 10.7% in November, more than five times the 2% target set for the Bank of England by the Treasury and down only slightly from a 41-year high of 11.1% in October.

Households are in the grip of a terrible cost-of-living crisis. And there is a cost-of-doing-business crisis for enterprises of all sizes, across myriad sectors.

Of course, there are global factors at play, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine having sent energy prices surging further.

However, many of the UK’s problems are home-grown. There is obviously Brexit, the hugely negative effects of which become clearer by the day, as labour and skills shortages and reduced trade take their toll on economic output and living standards. We also have the country’s woeful lack of security of energy supply and the knock-on effect on bills, as well as the inadequacy of support from the UK Government in this context for households and businesses.

As if all of this were not enough, we have had enormous political instability at Westminster.

Boris Johnson departed as prime minister, to be replaced by Liz Truss after what seemed like an overly long hiatus through the summer. Ms Truss then exited swiftly but not before her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget triggered a financial markets crisis requiring intervention by the Bank of England and sent sterling plummeting to a record low against the greenback of $1.0327.

Since then, we have seen Ms Truss replaced by Rishi Sunak, who was chancellor under Mr Johnson.

Jeremy Hunt has returned to the Cabinet as Chancellor and appears hell-bent on repeating the mistakes of the past. All of a sudden it seems as if we are back in 2010, with Mr Hunt appearing to favour the grim austerity which choked off growth in the wake of the global financial crisis when George Osborne was chancellor and David Cameron was prime minister.

Looking ahead, it is difficult to see much light on the horizon.

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It is much easier to see the troubles ahead. Households will continue to have to endure the awful cost-of-living crisis. Thanks to Mr Hunt, this crisis will be exacerbated significantly by a hike in the energy bill for a typical dual fuel household from an already sky-high £2,500 per annum to £3,000 a year from next April. This is a result of Mr Hunt’s decision to go back on the promise by Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng that the £2,500 a year level for a typical dual fuel bill would be maintained for two years from October 1, 2022, through whatever government support was required.

It would be difficult to overstate the impact of the surge in energy prices which households are already having to endure, even if Mr Hunt seems largely oblivious to this.

And the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast last month that the UK would turn in the weakest economic performance among the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations next year.

The think-tank projects the UK economy will contract by 0.4% next year. And it expects Germany, for which it predicts a 0.3% fall in gross domestic product for next year, to be the only other G7 country to see its economy shrink in 2023.

Furthermore, the OECD expects the UK to grow by only 0.2% in 2024. It projects Germany will see its GDP rebound by 1.5%.

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Data last week from the Office for National Statistics showed the UK economy’s decline in the third quarter was worse than estimated previously, putting the country at the bottom of the G7 in terms of its economic performance over that period.

UK GDP dropped 0.3% quarter-on-quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis in the three months to September, the latest figures showed. The ONS had previously put the fall at 0.2%.

GDP in the third quarter is now estimated by the ONS to be 0.8% below its pre-pandemic level back in the final three months of 2019. The ONS had estimated previously that it was 0.4% adrift.

The journey facing UK households and businesses looks challenging indeed.

Both households and businesses have shown plenty of resilience and drive during extremely protracted difficult times.

In contrast, it seems from looking at Mr Hunt that he prefers policies which will be an impediment to growth and living standards.

He and the UK Government as a whole really need to have a good look at themselves and think about what they might do to help deliver growth or at least mitigate decline. At the moment, they seem intent on making a bad situation worse.