UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced a £5 billion-economic package to recover from what he called the ‘disaster’ of the cornavirus pandemic, as the east Midlands town of Leicester with a large population of Indian origin went into the UK’s first local lockdown.
Harping on the mantra of ‘Build, build, build’, Johnson drew comparisons with former US President Franklin D Roosvelt’s ‘New Deal’ that took the country out of depression in the 1930s, and set out plans for major capital investment while keeping an eye on the virus.
England is due to ease lockdown restrictions on Saturday, but Leicester will be excluded due to an increase in infections in recent days and weeks, particularly among the younger population. The infections are particularly high in areas of pre-existing economic deprivation, such an Evington.
Considered the UK’s poster town of multiculturalism for its record in assimilating migrants of Indian heritage from Uganda and other places over the decades, the town has been placed out of bounds for anyone visiting, leaving or travelling within its limits.
Delivering a speech in Dudley, about 90 km from Leicester, Johnson said: “Too many parts of this country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved, as though someone had taken a strategic decision that their fate did not matter as much as the metropolis”.
“It (economic package) sounds positively Rooseveltian. It sounds like a New Deal. All I can say is that if so, then that is how it is meant to sound and to be, because that is what the times demand”, he added.
Critics panned Johnson comparing the economic package with the much bigger ‘New Deal’ of Roosvelt, with some pointing out that some elements had already been announced and were being brought forward. The plans also include promises made to usually Labour-voting areas that voted for the Conservatives in the December 2019 election.
The announcement includes building new homes, schools, more funding for the National Health Service, tackling skills crisis and bridging gaps in connectivity, productivity and opportunity. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce details of the package shortly.
Johnson said: “If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health. We will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before”.
“To that end we will build build build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires”.