Ministers are expected to use the data to reinforce their argument that pensions must be reformed, as a massive £22bn tax rise would be needed on top of the current austerity push to shrink it to its pre-crisis level.
“On current policy we would eventually expect to see public sector net debt on a continuously rising trajectory as a share of GDP," the OBR said in its report. "This would clearly be unsustainable." The "main lesson" of its analysis is that future governments are likely to have to undertake some additional fiscal tightening beyond the current parliament, it said.
Most public servants, with the exception of local government staff and university lecturers, are members of unfunded pension schemes in which the pensions are paid for out of general taxation.
The OBR's figure for pension liabilities is an estimate of the stock of assets the government would need now, if an investment fund had to be established to generate the cash to make all the future public sector pension payments.
The report makes the point that its calculation of the taxpayers’ total liability to pay public sector pensions "had nothing to do with changes in the size of prospective pension payments".
It also points out that if future pension payments are compared to the size of the UK's total economic output (gross domestic product) the cash value of public sector pensions will probably fall from 2 per cent of GDP in 2015-16 to 1.4 per cent in 2060-61.
"Our report should not be taken to imply that the consolidation already in the pipeline for the next four years should be made even bigger," the OBR added.
"That said, policymakers and would-be policymakers should certainly think carefully about the long-term consequences of any policies they introduce in the short term ... once the challenge of the current consolidation has passed."
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