Prime Minister Boris Johnson will present plans to lift the economy out of the coronavirus crisis with a speech on Tuesday promising to accelerate investment of £ 5 billion ($ 6.15 billion) in infrastructure.
Britain shut down parts of its economy for almost three months when COVID-19 threatened to get out of hand, forcing the government to borrow tens of billions of pounds to keep businesses afloat and limit job losses .
Now, as business gradually restarts, Johnson seeks to fend off criticism of his government’s handling of the pandemic by setting out his plan to repair the economic damage and reshape the country.
But his speech may be overshadowed by an announcement that the government is foreclosing on the English city of Leicester, which has a much higher COVID-19 infection rate than anywhere else in the country.
“It is a government that is fully determined not only to defeat the coronavirus, but to finally use this crisis to address the great unresolved challenges of this country over the past three decades,” said Johnson in a speech.
He will make comparisons between his ambition and the “New Deal” program of former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which included job-creating public works projects to help the United States recover from the Great Depression.
However, recent British history shows that infrastructure spending is difficult to achieve.
A new underground line in central London is over budget and behind schedule, as is a north-south high-speed rail link, the estimated cost of which alone reached £ 106 billion (£ 130.22 billion). dollars), almost double the bill five years ago. After decades of discussions on the expansion of London Heathrow Airport, the project remains mired in legal challenges.
The companies welcomed the plans, but Adam Marshall, managing director of the British chambers of commerce, said “they need to take shape quickly on the ground”.
Britain’s main opposition party, the Labor Party, has also said the government needs to do more to prevent job losses, which the Bank of England and government forecasters say may increase as the government phasing out temporary supports for workers affected by lockouts.
The speech will announce that £ 5 billion of investment in hospitals, schools, roads and other projects will be accelerated to support jobs and fuel an “infrastructure revolution”.
It is not known if new funds are being committed, with Minister of Finance Rishi Sunak to give more details next week.
Johnson has vowed not to repeat the actions of previous Conservative-led governments that responded to the 2007-2009 financial crisis by cutting spending on public services to prioritize balanced budgets and debt reduction.
He was elected by a landslide in 2019 before the coronavirus struck, on a pledge to address imbalances across Britain and spend more on health, education and police, testing the limits of the reputation of his party for fiscal prudence.
“We are going to build build build,” he said, according to extracts published by his office. “Rebuild better, rebuild greener, rebuild faster and do it at the pace that this moment requires.”
(Editing by Stephen Addison and Nick Macfie)
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