UK pledges ‘Rooseveltian’ response to virus crisis

UK pledges ‘Rooseveltian’ response to virus crisis
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the construction site of Ealing Fields High School in London on Monday. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

UK pledges ‘Rooseveltian’ response to virus crisis

UK pledges ‘Rooseveltian’ response to virus crisis
  • Britain has gone through a profound shock, says prime minister

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday the coronavirus crisis needed the type of massive economic response US president Franklin D. Roosevelt mobilized to deal with the Great Depression.

Johnson told The Times newspaper’s new radio station that Britain was heading for “bumpy times” as it struggles through its biggest economic contraction on record.

He intends to unveil a spending program in a speech on Tuesday his office has simply dubbed “build, build, build.”

“I think this is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the UK,” said Johnson. “I really think the investment will pay off.”

Roosevelt launched the New Deal program in the 1930s that created a comprehensive social care system whose legacy lives on to this day.

The first part of Johnson’s initiative earmarks £1 billion ($1.2 billion) for school repairs.

“The country has gone through a profound shock,” he said.

“We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband — you name it.”

Johnson won an impressive 80-seat majority in December by positioning his Conservatives as more fiscally responsible than the main opposition Labour Party.

But the lockdowns imposed globally to fight the new disease have forced even the most prudent governments to unveil social safety nets that will put states deep into debt for years to come.

The true scale of Britain’s unemployment problem will only be revealed once the government’s furlough scheme for temporarily laid-off workers begins being rolled backed in August.

The current spending program has supported 9 million jobs and cost the government tens of billions of pounds.

The independent Resolution Foundation think tank said the government had little choice but to spend even more because “the virus will continue to hold activity below its pre-pandemic level.”

Johnson should try to generate “job creation via direct public investment in social care and retrofitting,” it said in a report.

The ruling Conservative Party’s newfound focus on spending comes with Labour trying to recover from its election drubbing that cost the job of its socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn.

New opposition chief Keir Starmer — a trained lawyer with a more pragmatic style — offered to work with Johnson while more than 1,000 people were dying of COVID-19 a day in April.

But that support appears to be wearing off as the first wave of the health emergency passes and attention shifts to the economic response.

“It’s staggering that in light of the economic crisis that is about to descend upon us that we are not having a July budget that puts jobs at the center of economic recovery,” Starmer fumed on Monday.

Restaurants along with most of the rest of the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors in England will reopen next week for the first time since March 20.

But the easing could be delayed in the central English city of Leicester because of a reported spike in new infections.

Leicester mayor Peter Soulsby said he has received instructions from London to postpone the reopenings planned for next week.

Yet he also hinted that the ethnically diverse city of 500,000 was not looking forward to spending more time being kept away from its restaurants and pubs.

The mayor said the government’s assessment of the health problems in Leicester was “superficial.”

“Its description of Leicester is inaccurate and certainly it does not provide us with the information we need if we are to remain restricted for two weeks longer than the rest of the country,” he said.

Leicester City Council’s public health director Ivan Browne said the new infections were mostly being reported among younger people who are less susceptible to COVID-19.

“It’s very much around the younger working-age population,” Browne said.

American Airlines holds first civilian passenger flight of 737 MAX in nearly two years

Updated 43 min 38 sec ago

American Airlines holds first civilian passenger flight of 737 MAX in nearly two years

American Airlines holds first civilian passenger flight of 737 MAX in nearly two years
  • Part of a PR effort by the planemaker and airlines to rehabilitate the jet’s image
  • A smooth return to service for the MAX is seen as critical for Boeing’s reputation and finances

DALLAS: Boeing’s 737 MAX on Wednesday will make its first public demonstration flight with members of the media since being grounded over fatal crashes, as one of its biggest customers, American Airlines, seeks to prove it is safe for passengers.
The flight from the airline’s base in Dallas, Texas, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, comes weeks before the airline’s first commercial flight on Dec. 29, and is part of a PR effort by the planemaker and airlines to rehabilitate the jet’s image following a record 20-month ban.
Boeing said it had no comment on the American flight and that it would not have staff aboard. The planemaker has said that airlines will take a direct role in demonstrating to passengers that the 737 MAX is safe.
Boeing’s best-selling jet was grounded worldwide in March 2019 after two crashes five months apart killed a combined 346 people, marking the industry’s worst safety crisis in decades and a huge setback for US aviation regulatory leadership.
Wednesday’s flight marks the first time anyone besides regulators and industry personnel have flown on the MAX since the grounding. Last month, the US Federal Aviation Administration cleared it to fly. Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes is planning a similar high-profile event for the redesigned MAX this month, with cautious hopes to fly its first commercial flights as soon as next week, a representative said.
A smooth return to service for the MAX is seen as critical for Boeing’s reputation and finances.
The US planemaker is bracing for intense publicity from even routine glitches by manning a 24-hour “situation room” to monitor every MAX flight globally, and has briefed some industry commentators on details on the return to service, industry sources said.
Airlines and leasing companies have spent hundreds of billions of dollars buying the latest upgrade of the 737, the world’s most-sold aircraft.
But families of some of the crash victims in Indonesia and Ethiopia have protested the return to service, saying it is premature before a final investigative report on the second crash has been released.
The PR efforts are designed to highlight software and training upgrades which the FAA has said remove any doubt about the plane’s safety.
Boeing toned down its original plans for the plane’s eventual return as the crisis dragged on longer than executives expected, scrapping a high-profile publicity campaign which had included a ceremony in the Seattle area and a tour using an Oman Air 737 MAX, industry sources said.
A Boeing representative declined to comment.
Meanwhile, in a vote of confidence, airlines are stepping in to place orders for the MAX, with Alaska Airlines agreeing to lease extra MAX jets last week, and Ireland’s Ryanair expected to top up MAX orders as early as this week.