BRITAIN isn't working.
Some 33 years ago, the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher won a General Election on that slogan. When will it dawn on David Cameron that it applies to Britain under his Conservative-led Coalition? Under his watch, an economic recession is turning into a full-scale depression.
This week's figures on unemployment, which increased marginally in Scotland, conceal an ocean of discontent, as millions of workers are forced to subsist on part-time wages in insecure jobs with no future. The economy is flatlined. The private sector has not delivered the jobs that were promised to replace those lost in the public sector through austerity cuts.
And it would be naive to think anything is going to change fast. Europe remains locked in a futile battle with itself over the future of the eurozone. China and Southeast Asia look in better shape, but even there the signs of imminent contraction are everywhere.
Only in America is there some dim prospect of light at the end of the economic tunnel, largely because of President Obama's stimulus programmes, which have increased federal debt but boosted economic activity. He rescued the US car industry and launched a £700 billion programme comprising tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits and a raft of federal grants and loans. Since 2009, GDP has grown by 2.2% per year – hardly an economic boom, but a considerable achievement compared with the dismal record on this side of the Atlantic.
Britain needs to take a similar course, and soon. Yes, there is a risk of causing a sovereign debt crisis if public spending increases too fast. But the way things are going, this could happen anyway. Without growth, public debt will increase because unemployed people don't pay taxes. There is a growing consensus across industry that the Government must turn to growth.
We need bold action: an inventory of public projects concentrating on house-building, infrastructure, energy (green and nuclear) and advanced technology. We have the skills and we have the universities. Turn state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland into a state investment bank. Increase taxes on companies that hoard cash. Offer incentives for companies to employ people rather than machines. Cut taxes such as VAT to encourage retail sales. This is a national emergency and it needs a national response. You can't build a recovery on incentives to build conservatories.
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