Central Banker to Britons: You have it worse. Accept it.

In the podcast, Mr. Pill was asked to hash out how much current inflationary pressure was transitory or permanent. Britain had been hit by a series of shocks – the pandemic, higher energy pressures caused by the war in Ukraine, a disrupted food supply – which were individually transient, but came so close together that inflation never abated.

He added that there was another factor at play. Britain, which is a major net importer of natural gas, faced a large increase in the price of what it bought from the world compared to what it sold, mainly services. It changes the country’s economic health.

Here is what he said:

You don’t have to be much of an economist to realize that if what you’re buying has gone up a lot compared to what you’re selling, you’re going to be worse off.

So somehow in the UK someone has to accept that they are worse off and stop trying to maintain their real spending power by bidding up prices, either higher wages or passing on the cost of energy to customers.

And what we’re facing now is that reluctance to accept that—yes, we’re all worse off and we all have to do our part—to try to shift this cost onto one of our fellow citizens and say we’ll be fine, but they must take our share as well. The “pass-the-parcel” game going on here, that game is one that generates inflation, and that part of inflation may persist.

It is not the first time a Bank of England official has been criticized for insensitive proposals on how to keep inflation down. Early last year Andrew Bailey, the bank chief, said there needed to be “restraint in pay negotiations” so that inflation did not spiral out of control.

Some policymakers at the European Central Bank have expressed a similar concern, but in milder terms and more focused on corporate behavior. Europe has also experienced a major so-called term-of-trade shock, where the price of an important imported commodity, energy, rose sharply. That has worsened the economy, and European policymakers have urged businesses to accept some losses, just as workers have had to accept lost real income.

“It is important that there is fair burden sharing” between firms and workers, Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, said last month.

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