Growth up, borrowing down, – what’s not to like?


          As expected, the Autumn Statement produced a new independent official forecast for  the economy. The OBR expects growth to be faster, and extra borrowing lower as a result. By 2018-19 the government aims to be repaying debt.

            The forecast also anticipates a substantial increase in new housing,  with modest house prices rises peaking at 7% in 2015-16. Real house prices remain below the 2007-8 high throughout the next five years.

           Public spending continues to go up in cash terms, though at a slower pace than before. Next year the government aims to spend £12.7bn more , after a £15.9bn increase this year in adjusted Total Managed Expenditure. Net additional borrowing falls from £111 bn this year to £96bn next year.

              Savers will be pleased to know the official forecaster expects short term and longer term interest rates to rise steadily over the next five years. They pencil in 4.2% on average gilt stocks and 3.1 % for short rates by 2018-19. They foresee share prices rising gradually every year, consumer spending to rise, and commercial property prices to rise gently as well. Real incomes start growing again from 2014.

               They are likely to be right about the direction of travel for the next couple of years. Their 2010 forecast was far too optimstic whilst their Budget 2013 forecast was far too  pessimistic. Maybe this one will be nearer the truth.

                I would be surprised if things turned out as steadily as they expect after 2015. Normally adjustments take place more rapidly than officials recognise.  Interest rates on government debt have already risen more quickly than official forecasts anticipated.

              The individual decisions in the Auutmn Statement did not make much difference to the figures. The big changes have occurred thanks to faster growth, bringing  down the likely extra debt burden substantially. By 2017-18 debt is estimated to be £80 bn lower than in the March 2013 forecast.




  1. Nick
    December 5, 2013

    How can one put this?

    The deficit is the increase in debt.

    So along you come and claim that borrowing is reduced. Er, the amount you’ve borrowed has increased not decreased.

    Deliberate or incompetent?

    Hmmm, perhaps the public should decide.

    It goes back to your refusal to publish the pension debt figures as promised to get elected.

    If you had published those numbers, people would have very quickly worked out that you and all the others in Westminster are going to turn them over for lots of money.

    by 2017-18 debt is estimated to be £80 bn lower than in the March 2013 forecast.

    And like the Bruce Forsyth gameshow. Higher or Lower?

    It’s Higher. It’s always higher.

    1. Brian Tomkinson
      December 5, 2013

      Our host is one of the better MPs but, as you illustrate, even he can’t resist the urge to deceive the public because, sadly, his party, led by a mendacious duo, is more important to him than anything else.

    2. JoeSoap
      December 5, 2013

      As is the retirement age.
      Where is my contract for a state pension at 65?
      Where are my kids’ contracts for pensions at 70?
      nb there isn’t one
      You can fudge the figures totally by removing the state pension then ending up paying the “unexpected” costs of disability and unemployment which are there in their place.
      All fudge.

      1. JoeSoap
        December 5, 2013

        Why was Robert Maxwell so castigated for steling pension money when this government can do the same “at a stroke”?

  2. Vanessa
    December 5, 2013

    Because it is built on hot air ! It is similar to me spending and borrowing HUGE amounts on my credit card and buying a new car, lots and lots of Christmas presents, taking lots of expensive holidays and saying look how well I am doing ?!!!! NOT!

    We will come a cropper at some stage in the not too distant future – hopefully just before May 2015 !!!

    1. Brian Tomkinson
      December 5, 2013

      Good job there is plenty of sand for our host and his colleagues to keep their heads buried in!

  3. lifelogic
    December 5, 2013

    Well with smaller more efficient government, cheap not fake green energy, fewer mad regulations, less government waste, less EU, fewer encouragments to the feckless and fewer subsidies for uneconomic energy and some real positive vision it could have been so, so much better.

    Thanks very much Cameron for your ratting and incompetence. We have had to suffer Clegg and very soon Miliband for perhaps 10 years +. Thanks Mr Cameron for wasting the huge open goal and oportunity that Brown presented to you to put the UK on the right track.

    Much of Osborne’s positives measures (the £1000 of rates etc.) take effect as or after he leaves office so we can ignore all those. He foolishly anounced CGT on residential houses for non residents in advance. Why on earth do that I personally know of some big deals already put off just by the rhumours.

    No mention of Inheritance tax promises or rating on it (I think) was there?

    All sort of vague anti avoidance nonsense, which doubless will further increase work for lawyers, bureaucrats & tax experts – so yet more parasitic activity and even less productive activity.

    Doubless there are more daft negative in the small prints I have yet to read.

    For want of a simple working compass and a real tory leader, we now have to suffer Miliband and doubless the state sector unions in charge again.

    1. Mark
      December 6, 2013

      The CGT on foreign owned property seems designed to promote a “last chance saloon” further bubble. It doesn’t take effect until after April 2015, and then will only apply to increases in prices after then. That leaves foreign purchases with every incentive to bid up prices in the mean time (since they won’t be taxed on those gains). The real insult would be if it offers a tax shelter for gains on other assets were prices to fall after the tax applies.

      The effect will be similar to the withdrawal of double MIRAS in the late 1980s – a measure that was signalled well before it happened, and led to a scramble by purchasers seeking to take advantage before the concession was withdrawn – and the biggest property bubble in London and the South East until Brown eclipsed it.

      1. stred
        December 7, 2013

        Foreign owners are likely to have businesses and buy London property through the company. Gains could then be offset and all sorts of arrangements made to avoid CGT. Still a last chance stampede would all help the pre-election feelgood campaign.

  4. Leslie Singleton
    December 5, 2013

    I am unimpressed by the £80,000,000,000 “lower” debt which is lower only than forecast which to my mind is nothing much to use as your final punchline, signifying as it does merely that the forecast was wrong. Debt is still rising and best I understand is going to continue to do so, peaking in 2018 if we are very lucky.

    1. Brian Tomkinson
      December 5, 2013

      It’s hard to believe that our host thinks we are so naive and gullible but he very clearly does with this nonsense.

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    December 5, 2013

    JR: “By 2017-18 debt is estimated to be £80 bn lower than in the March 2013 forecast.”
    Apart from the fact that Osborne pledged to eliminate the structural deficit and start repaying debt by 2015, why should we put one iota of faith in a forecast which you have clearly demonstrated was wrong in 2010 and earlier this year and no doubt in each of the intervening years? Today’s performance in the Commons was a disgrace; playing party politics with the economy and behaving like drunken hooligans. Is it any wonder you are held in contempt by the majority in this country?

    1. Hope
      December 6, 2013

      Vote UKIP and give them the kick they deserve.

  6. Antisthenes
    December 5, 2013

    In the past I have made predictions that certain bubbles were forming and they will soon burst but the OBR is suggesting that I am wrong. Of course time(within reason that is) may still prove me right as the full effects of borrowing and money printing have I believe yet to kick in. Still I can be wrong some of the time but at least not all of the time like Ed Balls, Labour and other assorted lefties like the watermelons.

  7. lifelogic
    December 5, 2013

    I do not often agree with Robert Prestion but he points out that OBR says public finances are getting worse.

    It is surely not a very well based recovery based on exports, business investment, cheap energy, competitivity, fewer regulations, lower taxes, fewer parasites and more saving but one based and artificial low interest rates, uncontrolled immigration and rich people buying up Chealsea.

    1. PeterMartin
      December 5, 2013


      On a macro economic scale we all need to be a little careful with our ‘lilelogic’. In our personal life we know that “more saving” is good. But “more saving” causes problems if everyone saves. Everyone who has a job, or runs a business, can only get paid when customers spend not save.

  8. zorro
    December 5, 2013

    Indeed, I suspect that interest rates will be forced up quicker than they want. They will need to QE more in response to that……The likelihood is that even with rising rates, property will still rise…..for a time. However, there are a number of risk factors within the next two years (political and economic) which could force them off course. Forgive me if I do not put too much credence in ‘independent’ forecasts…..


    1. Chris S
      December 5, 2013

      Mark Carney and George Osborne know very well that if interest rates rise anytime soon, the recovery will be stone dead and all bets will be off.

      Labour’s desperate switch to focus on the cost of living was inevitable when Ed Balls’ predictions of double/triple dip recession and flat lining were proved so spectacularly wrong.

      Ironically mortgage costs spiral upwards on the back of successive increases in base rates could be a direct result of Osborne’s successful stewardship of the economy but would play straight into Miliband’s hands.

      Even Ed Balls could then claim he was right all along !

      What a travesty that would be !

      For all the right reasons I suspect that Mark Carney will keep interest rates at 0.5% for the longest possible period which will be well into 2016.

      The Government will be able to breath a sigh of relief as long as they stay where they are until after May 2015.

      1. uanime5
        December 6, 2013

        Labour’s desperate switch to focus on the cost of living was inevitable when Ed Balls’ predictions of double/triple dip recession and flat lining were proved so spectacularly wrong.

        How exactly were they proved wrong? The economy did flatline for 3 years and we only avoided a double dip recession because the growth in some years was recalculated to prevent their being negative growth.

        Ironically mortgage costs spiral upwards on the back of successive increases in base rates could be a direct result of Osborne’s successful stewardship of the economy but would play straight into Miliband’s hands.

        Mortgages are increasing because of Osborne’s help to buy scheme, which encouraged people to take out 95% mortgages. Other economic indicators, such as manufacture and construction, show that Osborne has damaged the economy.

        1. Edward2
          December 7, 2013

          More dodgy statements from you Uni
          One in particular needs correction

          Manufacturing and construction are both in growth.

  9. oldtimer
    December 5, 2013

    The net changes that matter have not changed that much in the wider scheme of things. The government is still failing to meet the objectives it set at the outset of this Parliament. Its energy policy, driven by the Climate Change Act, is a national disgrace; subsidies for inefficient offshore wind farms and solar energy have been increased. Next to nothing has been done to simplify taxes. It is all driven by political expediency,not by the nationalinterest.

  10. JoeSoap
    December 5, 2013

    “By 2018-19 the government aims to be repaying debt.”
    In other words,
    “For the WHOLE of a Conservative-led government more public debt has been racked up, so that the best we can offer is the possibility of a balanced budget in 5 years’ time”.

    As the elections get closer, your slant is becoming more and more apparent.
    Please swap those rose-tinted specs for reality.

  11. forthurst
    December 5, 2013

    Why doesn’t the Chancellor’s Crystal Ball give us a sneak preview of inflation (apart from that pertaining to property prices), or is he simply not letting on?

    Reply The OBR do forecast inflation, which they see coming down to the 2% target (CPI)

  12. Kenneth Morton
    December 5, 2013

    This time last year there were journalists who were making the point that the official ONS figures did not appear to be picking up all the activity in the economy, especially from the self-employed and start up sectors. I think that in the period since the Budget this hidden growth has made an impact and probably not in its entirety.

    So in my opinion, the growth forecast issued by OBR and used by the Chancellor today is probably still understated. Caution is understandable given the severity of the downturn. But Mr Osborne deserves, if anyone does, a brighter than forecast outcome over the next eighteen months!

  13. Gerard Dupneu
    December 5, 2013

    GO told us that moving retirement to 70 for those born after 1990 will save “us” 400 billions. Over the next 50 years. It would be so good if that guy could forecast by how much the debt will increase next year. And I’m not after GO, Ed or Vince would not do much better.

  14. Old Albion
    December 5, 2013

    Mr Balls didn’t seem to like it much. But he gave me the best political laugh for years.

  15. margaret brandreth-j
    December 5, 2013

    John and any other person who understands TAX can i ask a question? For years now The tax offices keep telling me different amounts I owe them, then I pay them from a tax code e.g 162L and instead of subtracting what I have paid from what I owe they add together .I have had 6 tax codes, the different branches never have the same information . I sent them piles of paperwork to help them understand and now they say I owe them nearly £3.000k from the past. I do have piles of paperwork and proof to the contrary.They keep harassing me. They then say that their mistakes are my fault. How do I sue them?

    Reply There is an appeal system if you think they have calculated your tax incorrectly. Code numbers do change depending on changes in your income and circumstances and are an attempt to charge the right amount of tax weekly or monthly so you do not face a large bill at the end of the year. They should work if you supply the right information. You could take professional advice to help you, or you could contact your MP to ask that your case is reviewed to see if they are asking you to -pay too much.

    1. stred
      December 7, 2013

      Over the past few years I have made my return online. I used to work it out on a paper and this was quite simple. It was always accepted and I paid up. Over the past years, on top of the tax due, they add an amount on account to be paid in advance for the next tax year. This only shows up on the next page and I nearly missed it. I don’t understand why there is always an extra amount, as I am not earning more, in fact less this year. The advice line operator just seems to look at the computer and confirm it is right. The same has been happening to a friend who is a builder. He says it is like him doing a job, finishing it, then asking to be paid for the job and another he might do next year. Perhaps this is what they are trying on you.

      The person in charge used to run the immigration department and , as they had no idea about numbers, this is a bit worrying.

      A friend in her 80s has had to use an accountant this year, but this is likely to cost as much as her tax so always get a quote from several before appointment.

  16. petermartin2001
    December 5, 2013

    Reducing the deficit can be done successfully but the way to do it is somewhat counter-intuitive. The intuitive way, drastically cutting spending and raising taxes, would have led to a downward spiral in the economy, and made the deficit worse.

    There needs to be an upward spiral! Get the economy moving again in other words. It is not a co-incidence that the deficit is down but growth is up. The deficit will naturally fall once the economy starts to grow. There does need to be some spending cuts to achieve growth, of course. But also there needs to be some tax cuts too. There needs to be sensibly policies in place . It isn’t just about spending for the sake of it.

    Those who say “…. it is built on hot air !” and ” It is similar to me spending and borrowing HUGE amounts on my credit card” have got it all wrong. If the government had got it badly wrong there wouldn’t be any growth and the deficit would be increasing.

    1. uanime5
      December 6, 2013

      It is not a co-incidence that the deficit is down but growth is up. The deficit will naturally fall once the economy starts to grow.

      The why did Osborne claim he’d reduced the deficit the most while the economy had almost no growth? If anything this seems to show that a fall in growth somehow reduced the deficit.

  17. M.A.N.
    December 5, 2013

    Is the deficit inclusive of QE? How will the government ever wean itself off QE if it can’t make meaningful cuts?.

    Reply It stopped QE some time ago.

    1. M.A.N.
      December 6, 2013

      So what’s changed then? Why have we gone from using QE to pay part or all of the deficit, to not needing to do that, and presumably in accordance to what you said, going back to borrowing to cover the deficit the old fashioned way off the money markets. Did funding for lending get all used up? Hence the recent change on that?.

    2. Denis Cooper
      December 6, 2013

      But the Treasury could get the Bank to resume QE at any time that it thought that to be desirable, and – guess what? – Osborne would just tell you and the other MPs, not ask you beforehand whether you agreed to it.

    3. petermartin2001
      December 7, 2013

      QE isn’t the huge cost that some think it to be. Essentially the process is buying back Treasury bonds from banks and other financial institutions. Both bonds and cash are a form of printed government money. Swapping one for the other is not going to have a huge effect on the economy.
      QE has helped the banks settle their accounts between each other, though, at a time when they are distrustful of each other’s IOUs. The cash won’t get lent out though. Banks do not work like that. They lend out their own IOUs and keep government cash as part of their reserves as far as possible. If they have an excess in the future they may well just switch back to bonds.

      1. Denis Cooper
        December 8, 2013

        “Both bonds and cash are a form of printed government money. Swapping one for the other is not going to have a huge effect on the economy.”

        I don’t know whether you’ve ever tried offering to pay for your groceries with gilts, or for that matter with National Savings certificates … most shopkeepers are a bit fussy about this and expect to be paid in money, legal tender, even if they are prepared to accept a credit card promise that in due course they will be paid in said money.

        Similarly anyone who is due a payment from the government will normally expect to be paid in money; to take a simple example, an OAP would not be pleased to get a letter explaining that because the government had run out of money it was only able to pay part of this week’s pension in cash, but please find enclosed a gilts certificate in lieu of the rest.

        So when the Treasury and the Bank of England agree to indirectly swap their respective IOUs through QE as practised in the UK, with the Bank getting the Treasury’s IOUs, gilts, its present stock being valued at £375 billion:

        and the Treasury getting the Bank’s IOUs, money, it does make a difference to the economy if those transactions mean that the government does not run out of money and can still pay all its bills in full and on time.

  18. Tad Davison
    December 5, 2013

    I really do struggle to see the country’s predicament in the same way the ‘believers’ do. Ok, I accept there is some good news on many fronts. We might even have begun to turn the corner and started to undo the colossal damage of the last Labour administration, but I wonder if the MPs I saw quaffing jovially in the House of Commotions today, really have a handle on the magnitude of the very thing that could wreck everything – that cursed debt!

    This nation’s debt isn’t so much the Elephant in the room, it’s the dormant volcano just outside the window. It isn’t hard to envisage a global scenario where the national debt could become unmanageable. Wars in certain places could trigger it, and God knows there are plenty of people who engineer those to suit their own purposes regardless of the wider consequences (oh how I would love to say more!).

    To me, and because the world’s political predicament is far from settled, it seems the reduction of the UK’s national debt should at least be given a higher priority. Maybe it’s because most people don’t fully understand it, that few seem to call upon their elected representatives to do more to reduce it. Whatever the whys and wherefores, we’re playing with dynamite, or more poignantly, with this nation’s very future.

    Tad Davison


  19. matthu
    December 5, 2013

    With government debt already close to £1 trillion (that’s £45,000 per household) … with additional unfunded pension liabilities amounting to £3 trillion (that’s another £150,000 per household) … when we are facing an extra £10 billion ‘contribution’ to the EU over the next 5 years (let alone what our banks pay in fines) … it’s time to get realistic about the true cost of EU membership, the true cost of green jobs, and how we’ve all been royally screwed and are going to continue to be royally screwed over the coming years.

    All except of course the wind farm owners, or those with an EU-funded pension.

    Stop pretending we can continue

  20. cosmic
    December 5, 2013

    The eighth derivative of the rate of increase of debt is now zero. Yippee!

    What has changed fundamentally?

    1. Mark
      December 6, 2013

      That would imply that the seventh derivative is now constant – but is it above or below zero? If it is above then the sixth derivative is increasing….

  21. Anthem
    December 5, 2013

    Whatever recovery is taking place is all thanks to hard working men and women up and down the country who, against all odds and obstacles stacked before them by governmental types, get out of bed every morning in order to fulfill their own potential.

    The knock-on effect is that everyone benefits in some way or another.

    It takes a politician to take any kind of credit, though.

  22. dave roderick
    December 6, 2013

    as the total debt of this country stands at 900% of gdp as soon as interests start to rise watch hyperinflation kick in

  23. Arschloch
    December 6, 2013

    Whats not to like? Well how about the stagnant or declining wages for the ordinary working man and the ever increasing cost of food and fuel? I will believe the better rates for savers when I see them because as soon as QE stops the whole thing begins to fall apart.

    John please can you also keep the blog a Mandela “Free Zone” today. If anything all he did was prove Marx was correct in that class dominates everything else. He signed South Africa up straight away to follow the “Washington consensus” as to how to develop your country, massive arms build up (against whom?), privatisation etc. If you can seek out Jon Pilger’s interview with him, no Bono like ass kissing here, just watch a your jaw drop as a lefty journalist sticks the boot straight into him.

    1. Denis Cooper
      December 6, 2013

      If we all agree that Mandela was a saint then nothing more needs to be said …

    2. Tad Davison
      December 6, 2013

      Haven’t seen Pilger’s interview with Mandela, but whilst looing for it, I did come across Pilger’s report on The New Rulers of the World. That was worth seeing, but alas, not very complimentary of Tony Blair, or the Labour government of the 1960s whom it claims, were complicit in (bad events ed) of Indonesia.

      Globalisation, globalisation, globalisation, or put another way, exploitation, exploitation, exploitation. And then Labour would have us believe they are for the working man! They make me want to puke!


    3. Tad Davison
      December 6, 2013

      And I’ve since watched another John Pilger documentary entitled ‘Stealing a Nation’ in which he lambasts the Wilson Labour government, and the Blair Labour government, for being complicit in the illegal removal of the indigenous people, so that the US could build a massive military base at Diego Garcia. Those people had their dogs gassed, and were dumped in abject poverty on a neighbouring island.

      A con isn’t he word, but of course, a Labour government would never do such a thing. They’re holier and far more principled than everyone else.

      Now let me see………I wonder who bought up all the gold that Iron Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown, sold for peanuts?


  24. Mike Stallard
    December 6, 2013

    Mr Redwood, the people who read this most excellent (no, I am being serious -it is always full of accurate figures and serious common sense) blog are I suggest natural Conservatives. Labour Trolls stick out a mile and do not last long either.

    All the comments above are not satisfied with your analysis and your optimism.

    If they aren’t – who is?

  25. Andyvan
    December 6, 2013

    May whoever your God is help us. We are to be faced with a choice come election time between Balls the (wrong headed? ed) and George the Incompetent. These figures are catastrophically bad. There has been very little progress on reducing public spending, a steep rise in taxation, a “recovery” based on money printing and foreign buyers of London property and we are expected to be thankful. It utterly defeats me why anyone has any faith whatsoever in any political party at all. They rule the country entirely for the benefit of insiders at the expense of everyone else. Wealth and privilege is buttressed and protected by all the regulations that are foisted upon us for our own good. Most of the population is so brainwashed they cannot imagine living without the overlord class or if they do they just want to substitute some Marxist maniac for the current mob. Should you wish to opt out of the whole tax and bribe system you will be kidnapped and imprisoned by state thugs and your possessions stolen. Why do we tolerate governments? They have killed 250 million people in the 20th century alone and can’t even balance their own fiddled book keeping as evidenced in the autumn statement. I wish I did believe in a god because I could pray he’d help us.

  26. Frank salmon
    December 6, 2013

    So, what we do know is that we don’t know where the economy will be in the next few years. My guess is inflation, followed by high interest rates, followed by another recession within the next five years……

  27. Mark
    December 6, 2013

    The OBR has a new model of house prices:

    It suggests that Help to Buy might add 10% to house prices. That is looking like an underestimate already if you consider the annualised rate at which prices have been increasing in recent months (10-12% p.a.). It is no wonder that Mr Carney withdrew Funding for Lending from the mortgage market – he read the tea leaves that say “bubble”.

  28. Denis Cooper
    December 6, 2013

    I don’t know why anyone ever thought that the horrendous effects of over a decade of economic mismanagement could be reversed in just a few years. In the nature of things there will be recovery, but it will be slow and my concern is that at this rate we may well be into the next cyclical downturn before the government even balances its budget let alone pays down a significant part of the accumulated debt.

    Osborne made his task more difficult by signally failing to hammer home to the British people the truth about the desperately precarious state of their government’s finances, so that most voters went into the 2010 general election with little understanding of the sheer magnitude of the problem – a problem which the Labour government had disguised by getting the Bank of England to print £198 billion of new money to help it pay its bills without having to make drastic cuts in its spending during 2009, a cunning ploy which Osborne foolishly chose not to expose, at great cost to the country.

  29. Dennis
    December 6, 2013

    What’s not to like?
    If you like not knowing or caring where the fundamental sources are coming from to fuel this growth and what this will mean in the long run.

    I also don’t understand people moaning that they are not better off than ‘before’. Why should they be? Why should their children be better off than they have been? When should those increases stop? It’s all greed, greed, greed without a thought of what this means. Rather like those drug cartel guys who have billions but continue to want more – idiots.

  30. uanime5
    December 6, 2013

    Given how almost all the OBR’s forecasts have been wrong there’s no reason to believe that this one will be correct. We could have a repeat of 2010 when the OBR predicted 2% growth and the UK recovering due to growth and higher taxation by 2013. The result was flat lining for 3 years due to Osborne’s austerity plans.

    Also the Government won’t be popular with the public if they continue to allow large companies and the wealthy to avoid paying most of their taxes at a time when normal people have falling wages and living standards.

    1. Edward2
      December 7, 2013

      I know good economic news is as difficult for you to swallow as it plainly is for the shadow chancellor but try to keep calm as you are starting to repeat yourself Uni.
      Its not a good sign.

  31. Lindsay McDougall
    December 8, 2013

    What’s not to like? Well, if the GDP growth has depended on an increase in household debt, I’m not sure that it is going to last. The Chancellor appears to be gambling on the latest OBR forecasts being correct. I think that’s risky given that the deficit is still high. Labour has got it diametrically wrong. The fiscal deficit has not been cut fast enough. Anyone who doubts this should remember that the annual interest on State debt is greater than the education budget. When we reduce that debt interest, the government can afford to spend a bit more.

    What else is there not to like? The Chancellor is sanguine about the future cost of health and welfare costs for the elderly. He is wrong. Raising the pension age is necessary but not sufficient. We still don’t know if employers will feel that 65 to 70 year olds are effective employees. And we still can’t afford the State pension triple lock and the special payments and concession fares.

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