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Do public works work? Using government spending to beat a recession

Updated Thursday, 26th February 2009

James Caan and an expert panel discuss government plans for public works projects - can we dig our way out of recession?

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This video is an extended extract from the programme James Caan’s Jobs. This was originally broadcast on BBC Two, February 26th 2009.


James Caan

The first point that I really wanted to share with you is the Government’s recent announcement in terms of the public works programme to generate jobs, and just really get your take on what your thoughts are as to how viable that proposition is and maybe Brendan we can kick off with you on that, just to get your insight to that.


Well I welcome the Government intentions to use the power of public spending to help try and keep our economy moving during these extraordinarily difficult times when the markets are in such turmoil.  But one of the difficulties is that the time taken in planning major projects can be so long that it cannot have the immediate impact that we want to see.


It takes time for these things to come through, and knowing our planning procedures in this country, let us hope we start recovering in this economy at some point, but by the time this extra public works programmes come on board, and I'm not against them in principle, you could perhaps find the economy’s recovering already.

Male speaker

There is absolutely no doubt that this country could use a few more infrastructure projects.  The question is only do we have the skills base in this country, and how long is it going to take us to build this up?  Do you want to employ traders from CanaryWharf with a shovel on a brick and mortar project?


It might do them the world of good, an honest day’s work may just be the trick.

Male speaker

Please do invite me to the site because I want to take photos of that.  Let’s not underestimate the amount of skills it takes to carry out these brick and mortar projects.

James Caan

Okay, Tristan just quick, just on the point of the Government’s initiative to create more jobs using public infrastructure projects, is that something you think would work?


I actually don’t think it is something that would work.  I think it’s unsustainable, I think it’s a quick fix.  I also think that we don’t have the capacity to take on the further deficit.  I think you would be better placed to put that money in high developing or high growth businesses that are finding a sort of olive leaf within this market and support those businesses to find opportunities for people to join them, be employed with them and find a career with them, as opposed to a short term fix of giving people a six month contract on new infrastructure that may, as Ruth said, take two to three years to come to fruition anyway.







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