Thursday, November 26, 2009

The flooding disaster exposes Britain's fragile economic future

Deborah Orr in the Guardian (UK): …So far, 16 bridges have been closed or destroyed in Cumbria, taking other utilities – electricity, phone lines – with them. A total of 1,600 bridges are now being inspected, to see if they too are less solid that they seemed a week ago. One entire community has been all but marooned, and a temporary railway station has been erected, to help with sudden demand for the local rail service. The cost of replacing lost infrastructure will not be a mere bagatelle. And no one is arguing with the idea that the government will have to find the money, not even those blue-eyed boys who like nothing more than to profess their hatred for the "big state".

On the contrary, the Confederation of British Industry, at its conference this week, insisted that more transport infrastructure, along with more broadband investment and new nuclear power, should be items at the top of any government shopping list. I have no argument with that, and I don't think John Maynard Keynes would either. It is just the sort of spending he had in mind when he exhorted governments to throw money at recessions, racking up deficits on their way if they had to, in order to get the economy growing again. Actually, it's just the sort of thing that many governments spend money on, even when they are not in recession. The destruction in Cumbria, however, is a horribly timely reminder that successive governments of the late 20th century in Britain have not done this.

…[T]he government and the opposition are only half-right as they wrestle in their phoney fight about public spending. Of course it would be idiotic to cut public spending in the middle of a recession. But it would not be idiotic to redirect it. The great trouble is that the government is pouring money into stuff that is not laying the groundwork for the sustainable economy that everyone wants for the future.

…. It is time for us to understand that if we want a sustainable and secure future, then everything has to be reassessed, and much will have to change. Otherwise, our taxes will be spent on servicing debt until all of our bridges are swept away, and there is no way back.

Railway bridge over the River Derwent in Workington, shot by Andy V Byers, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

1 comment:

Suzi Christie said...

We also need to look carefully at the clean up operation. Drying out homes and properties using traditional methods eg blowers uses massive amounts of electricity and generates a large carbon footprint - without even considering the cost. A new invention called Direct Air Dryers should be used in all cases - it can dry out properties in 21 days which aslo means people can return home sooner.