London, Jun 30 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom’s prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday unveiled a post-Covid-19 economic recovery package worth five billion pounds ($6.1bn).
In a speech delivered in the town of Dudley, the Conservative Party leader unveiled what he described as a New Deal, a label that prompts comparison with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s post-Great Depression program.
Johnson said the government would speed up infrastructure development for highways, hospitals and schools with the aim to “build, build, build.”
“Build back better, build back greener, build back faster.”
The package will dedicate 1.5 billion pounds to improving hospital services, more than a billion to build schools over a period of ten years and another billion to roads.
Another 900 million would be dedicated to development programs in England between 2020-21.
“We cannot continue simply to be prisoners of this crisis,” the prime minister said.
“We are preparing now slowly and cautiously to come out of hibernation and I believe it is absolutely vital for us now to set out the way ahead so that everyone can think and plan for the future – short, medium and long term.
“Because if the covid crisis has taught us one thing it is that this country needs to be ready for what may be coming.”
Many of the policies were already included in Johnson’s initial pledge when he became prime minister.
“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.
“To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to solve social care, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK, to unite and level up.”
However the leader of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer said it was insufficient.
“The prime minister promised a new deal, well there’s not much that’s new and it’s not much of a deal,” he said.
“We’re facing an economic crisis, the biggest we’ve seen in a generation and the recovery needs to match that,” he added.
“What’s been amounts to less than 100 pound per person.”
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, said: “5bn pounds in economic stimulus is woefully short of the c. 80bn pound that would put UK on a par with Germany. I also suspect there will be less to it than meets the eye in terms of genuinely new money.”
The UK has been one of Europe’s worst-hit nations by the coronavirus with over 43,000 deaths.
While much of the country is beginning to remove the lockdown — albeit at different paces given that devolved powers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can draw their own policies on the matter — parts of the city of Leicester have been placed in lockdown once again amid a surge of cases.
Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus health crisis has come under heavy criticism from the opposition, particularly for his decision to stand by his chief advisor Dominic Cummings when the latter faced accusations of breaching the lockdown rules.