Covid presents the double challenge of finding a way to get the economy going again while, at the same time, beginning to pay off the vast debts rung up paying for schemes like furlough.
The Brexit effect, supply shortages and high energy prices are also adding to our economic woes, as well as to the amount of special pleading – much of it thoroughly justified – directed at the Treasury.
The UK government is committed to a levelling-up agenda aimed at helping areas, particularly in the north of England, that have been ‘left behind’, so Sunak must also find a way to demonstrate there is continued substance behind the rhetoric.
The need to reduce carbon emissions in the fight against climate change is another priority he must address.
The Chancellor is under pressure from his own side with many Conservative backbenchers anxious about potential tax rises, on top of the usual pressure from opposition parties.
The SNP’s Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss yesterday called on Sunak to deliver an investment package that will “boost economic growth, wages, and productivity” and take measures designed to improve pensions, benefits and wages and reduce inequality.
Sunak could respond by attacking the SNP’s less-than-stellar record on inequality and economic growth, but he still has to come up with the goods on Wednesday.
For about a year-and-a-half, the UK has become used to state intervention on a massive scale, unprecedented in peacetime. However, it is now time for the Chancellor to take measures that will help get the country back on its own two feet and return to something closer to self-sufficiency.
But the government cannot simply legislate to make us wealthy, this requires a thriving economy. If the vast majority of us are paid a decent wage and taxes are kept reasonably low, then people will have money to spend, businesses will prosper and be able to invest and expand, and tax revenues will rise.
So if Sunak’s Budget has a focus, it should be on kickstarting this virtuous, upward spiral which could be the answer to most, if not all, our troubles.