Budget 2013: What the commentators are saying

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Media captionPaul Krugman told Treasury Minister Matthew Hancock that the government's plans were "a mess"

If criticism and advice were a form of currency, then the chancellor could easily pay off the country's debts before the Budget on 20 March.

The government is sticking to its financial plans, which have led to cuts in some departments' budgets, limited rises in some benefits and higher taxes.

It argues that changing course would plunge the UK "back into the abyss".

But some economists have suggested that austerity is hindering the recovery and that borrowing some extra money to spend on infrastructure projects could help boost growth.

'Disastrously wrong turn'

A discussion between Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman from Princeton University and business minister Matthew Hancock on Tuesday's Newsnight produced some particularly strong language.

"Britain is a wealthy country, it can make a lot of mistakes," said Prof Krugman, who is a long-standing critic of austerity policies.

"But boy, are you really making a mess of things? This is a disastrously wrong turn in policy that Britain has taken."

'Borrow more'

Martin Wolf in the Financial Times is very critical of a recent speech by David Cameron explaining why there can be no more borrowing.

"Mr Cameron argues that those who think the government can borrow more 'think there's some magic money tree. Well, let me tell you a plain truth: there isn't.'

This is quite wrong... there is a money tree, called the Bank of England, which has created £375bn to finance its asset purchases."

Tackle size of the state

Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph says that the government's problem is that it is not going far enough in cutting public spending.

"David Cameron and George Osborne talk the rhetoric of fiscal consolidation, if only to differentiate themselves from their Labour opponents, but actually practise something which falls a long way short of the pretence."

"At this stage, the bloated size of the state is not being seriously tackled."

Lessons from history

Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian looks back over the history of austerity policies.

"You would have to be one of the austerity jihadists to believe that you could cut your way out of a slump."

"The entire modern history of expansionary fiscal contraction, as coalition ministers used to call it, is that it almost never works."

'Shock and awe cuts'

Under an entertaining picture of zombies, Allister Heath says in the Telegraph that radical changes are needed in the Budget.

"We must stop obsessing about the short-term distributional impact of policies and focus only on whether they get the economy growing sustainably.

"For that, we need shock and awe tax cuts to make Britain a more attractive place for people and companies to invest in, incentivising them to take calculated risks and create more, better paying jobs, for poor and middle-class alike.

"If that also helps the rich, so what?"

'Boxed in'

Jim O'Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, is another critic of austerity.

"The strategy of the coalition, three years in, is 'let's cut debts,' and what has it done other than in fact not cut debts?" he said to Bloomberg.

"They've put themselves into a bit of a box" with an unwavering commitment to debt reduction, he added.

He said the government would come under pressure to ease the pace of fiscal consolidation as it got closer to the next election.