Johnson makes ‘build, build, build’ pledge to revive Britain

Agency Report

Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed on Tuesday to spend £5 billion ($6.15 billion) on infrastructure projects and launch a £12 billion house-building programme to kick-start Britain’s economic recovery.

Johnson said he wants to “build back better” to help the country through the expected severe economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and Britain leaving the European Union.

The spending programme will also “tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades,’’ he said in advance excerpts from a speech later Tuesday.

“To that end, we will build, build, build,’’ Johnson said.

“Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires.’’

The plan includes an extra £1 billion for school construction over the next two years; £1.5 billion for hospital maintenance and other health infrastructure; plus spending on courts, prisons, roads, bridges and local high streets.

“If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health,’’ Johnson said.

“We will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before.’’

Johnson did not say how the government will fund the new programmes, which are planned over periods ranging from one to 10 years.

He ruled out any “punitive tax raid on the wealth creators’’.

Opposition Labour lawmaker, David Lammy, said Johnson showed in his speech that he was “a prime minister totally unaware of the scale of the economic challenges we face’’.

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Lammy cited an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) forecast that Britain will suffer the worst economic fallout from the pandemic among developed nations.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), cautiously welcomed Johnson’s pledges, but said businesses need more help from the government.

“Foundations are there to be built on,’’ Fairbairn said.

“More is needed to prevent the uneven scarring unemployment leaves on communities.’’

“The reality is that longer-term plans will falter without continued help for firms still in desperate difficulty,’’ she said.

Johnson said he expected “huge economic costs” from the pandemic, bringing a “far bigger challenge” than the 2008 financial crisis.

“We will build the foundations now for future prosperity to make this country – a Britain that is fully independent and self-governing for the first time in 45 years – the most attractive place to live, to invest and to set up a company,” he said, referring to Britain leaving the European Union.

He promised to launch a “Project Speed to scythe through red tape and get things done’’.


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