London: Britain's new finance minister Nadhim Zahawi pledged on Wednesday to rebuild and grow the struggling economy and said he would look at all options to do that, including possible tax cuts.
Zahawi, who moved from the education ministry to the Treasury on Tuesday after the resignation of Rishi Sunak in protest against embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said "nothing is off the table".
Among other government ministers to abandon their posts on Wednesday were health minister Sajid Javid and junior finance minister John Glen, who was responsible for the City of London.
⦿ A long-standing member of the Conservative Party, Zahawi worked in the 1990s as an aide for novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer, who was jailed for perjury in 2001.
⦿ In 2000 he co-founded the polling company YouGov and was its chief executive until 2010, turning the company into one of Britain’s top market research companies.
⦿ Zahawi ran in the 2010 general election as the Conservative Party candidate for Stratford-upon-Avon and won.
⦿ His success in business prompted then prime minister David Cameron to appoint Zahawi to the policy unit in Downing Street.
⦿ After working in junior ministerial roles in the education and business departments, he was appointed minister in charge of the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in 2020. In 2021, Boris Johnson appointed him to the cabinet as education secretary.
Zahawi, widely credited in the Conservative Party for successfully overseeing Britain's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, said 2023 was shaping up to be "really hard" and he would focus on the cost-of-living squeeze facing households.
Zahawi hinted at moves to ease taxes on individuals and a rethink of Sunak's plan to raise taxes on businesses next year.
"Nothing's off the table. I will look at everything. When boards invest, companies invest, they invest for the long term and they do compare corporation tax rates," he told Times Radio.
Zahawi said his priority was to fight inflation - something that could be aggravated by tax cuts - and he also stressed the need to fix the public finances after his predecessor spent around 400 billion pounds ($479 billion) to cushion the economic blow dealt by the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have just come out of the equivalent of a world war. We have to rebuild the economy and return to growth," he said, adding the government would have to be careful about increases in public-sector pay, which could drive inflation higher.
"The important thing is to get inflation under control, be fiscally responsible," he told Sky News.
Zahawi was appointed after Sunak quit the job in protest at Johnson's "standards" and citing differences over economic policy with the prime minister.
Nadhim Zahawi, Britain’s new finance minister was born in Baghdad to Kurdish parents and came to the UK as a boy, after his family fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime in the 1970s. Unable to speak English when he arrived, Zahawi has spoken about how he was bullied at school.
He trained as a chemical engineer at University College London, going on to work in the oil industry. A self-made millionaire who co-founded the polling firm YouGov, he entered Parliament in 2010, where he has represented Stratford-on-Avon ever since. He backed Brexit in 2016.
Zahawi has been a staunch defender of Johnson throughout the partygate scandal, regularly appearing on broadcast media in the months since the initial Downing Street party revelations. He and his wife also reportedly own five residences worth 17 million pounds.
Little is known publicly known about Zahawi’s economic views, tough he has in the past advocated for tax cuts. He now takes the reins of an increasingly fragile economy.