Cameron targets growth and jobs, after brutal spending cuts

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British Prime Minister David Cameron, fresh from unleashing the biggest public spending cuts in decades, vowed Monday to help deliver private-sector jobs and growth in a key speech to business chiefs.

"There is one question I want to answer today: Where is the growth going to come from -- and where are the jobs going to come from," Cameron said at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

"Over the course of this parliament -- and the next -- I believe we can transform our fortunes," he told the country's biggest employers' body, which is a powerful business lobbying group.

This year's CBI event trailed last week's comprehensive spending review, in which the coalition government announced plans to cut half a million public sector jobs, slashing budgets and welfare benefits as it seeks to curb a huge deficit.

Some economists have suggested that another half a million jobs could be shed in the private sector as a result of the stinging cutbacks.

However, Cameron promised a "forensic, relentless focus on growth" in the coming months, as he looked to drive the agenda away from spending cuts.

The Conservative party leader said his goverment would seek to create an investment environment in which British companies could flourish and tap into industries where they enjoyed a competitive advantage.

"To build that new dynamism in our economy, to create the growth, jobs and opportunities Britain needs, we've got to back the big businesses of tomorrow, not just the big businesses of today," he added.

"That means opening up access to finance, creating an attractive environment for venture capital funding, getting banks lending to small businesses again and insisting that a far greater proportion of government procurement budgets are spent with small and medium sized firms."

Cameron announced a 200-million-pound (310-million-dollar, 225-million-euro) network of so-called technology innovation centres that aim to link up British businesses with researchers at major universities.

And he published a so-called national infrastructure plan that would create create 200 billion pounds of long-term investment from both the public and private sector.

"The prime minister demonstrated a real passion for business and an understanding that only business will create growth," noted CBI director-general Richard Lambert.

"There was a welcome emphasis on the need to re-boot the country's infrastructure, with a coherent vision of what needs to be done over the next five years to secure economic growth."

In a world of "unpredented economic change," Cameron also appealed for innovative companies to expand.

"This is an incredible opportunity for Britain, for new start-ups to flourish, for innovations to drive growth and create jobs," added the prime minister, whose government shares power with the Liberal Democrats.

The coalition wants to slash a record British deficit, run up under the previous Labour government, as it seeks to preserve confidence on international financial markets and avoid a Greece-style debt crisis.

"In five years' time we will have balanced the books," the prime minister told the CBI, which represents 240,000 businesses.

"The sharp tax rises and huge interest rates you feared, the uncertainty you felt -- these are things that you no longer need to worry about."

Ed Miliband, new leader of the opposition Labour party, warned that the steep cuts could damage Britain's fragile recovery.

"I do fear that the path the government is pursuing is a gamble with growth and jobs," he told the conference.

"They have a programme which will lead to the disappearance of a million private and public sector jobs but no credible plan to replace them."

But Lambert said that the CBI applauded the goverenment's swift action to correct the deficit.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the government needed to find growth from the private sector -- because there was limited room for any stimulus measures.

"The government has very limited scope to promote growth through fiscal stimulus," Cable told delegates.

"And with private consumers being so debt-laden, growth will have to come from the business sector and overseas trade."


© 2010 AFP

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