By Aditi Khanna
London, Jun 30 (PTI) UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday unveiled what he branded a “build, build, build” New Deal for Britain, which puts jobs and infrastructure at the centre of the government’s economic growth strategy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK's New Deal, akin to the rebuilding strategy deployed by former US President Franklin D Roosevelt in the wake of the Great Depression of 1929, brings forward GBP 5 billion of capital investment projects, supporting jobs and the economic recovery, including hospitals, bridges, schools and digital infrastructure upgrades.
In a speech delivered at Dudley Technical College in the West Midlands region of England, the UK PM began by admitting that "it may seem a bit premature" to talk about life after COVID-19 because global case numbers are still growing, but stressed that it is "absolutely vital" to set out the plan so people can plan for the future.
“It sounds positively Rooseveltian. It sounds like a New Deal. All I can say is that if so, then that is how it is meant to sound and to be, because that is what the times demand,” said Johnson.
“A government that is powerful and determined and that puts its arms around people at a time of crisis… this is a government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades,” he said.
The plan, pitched as the most radical set of reforms for the country since the Second World War, will involve building homes, fixing the National Health Service (NHS), tackling the skills crisis, and mending the “indefensible gap” in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK.
“To unite and level up. To that end we will build, build, build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires,” said Johnson.
“If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health. We will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before,” he added.
He admitted there is a "real, real crisis" faced in terms of jobs and employment as a result of the pandemic-induced lockdown but said his ministers will work as hard as they possibly can to ensure people will have opportunities as the UK gradually emerges from the crisis.
"Build now, believe me, that is the way forward," he said, adding that an “infrastructure revolution” will be unleashed through his bold programme of national renewal, with UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to set out further plans for the economy next week.
Asked how his “New Deal” was different from his manifesto pledges from the December 2019 General Election which won him a landslide victory, he said that speed is critical, claiming planning delays are very costly, particularly for young people trying to get on the housing ladder.
"That is why we are setting up Project Speed," he told reporters.
"I fully accept that there will be economic aftershocks but there are also big opportunities," he said, in reference to the pandemic.
In the coming autumn months, Downing Street said the government will publish a National Infrastructure Strategy which will set a clear direction on core economic infrastructure, including energy networks, road and rail, flood defences and waste.
To protect the UK’s natural infrastructure, Johnson plans to reforest Britain by planting over 75,000 acres of trees every year by 2025. He also pledged GBP 40 million to boost local conservation projects and create 3,000 jobs, including new Conservation Rangers, and safeguard a further 2,000 – training young people and others in the community to protect their local environments. PTI AK IND