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Mon, Dec 01, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Britain announces additional measures to boost economy

AFP , LONDON AND BERLIN

The British government will “almost certainly” do more in the coming months to help the economy recover from a downturn, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling said in an interview published yesterday.

His remarks came after he unveiled a £20 billion (US$31 billion) economic stimulus plan last Monday in a bid to reignite consumer spending and combat looming recession.

A poll released yesterday, meanwhile, showed that Britons regarded the government’s economic team as more capable with the economy than that of the main opposition party, though the former’s support level had deteriorated significantly.

“You’d be very foolish indeed to say: ‘Well that’s job done,’” Darling told the Observer weekly newspaper. “You know this is something that needs constant attention. We’ve got the budget next year, we’ve got the pre-budget in 12 months’ time, the budget after that.”

“I put more money into the reserve on Monday precisely because I know that we’re almost certainly going to be doing additional things. The people expect you to do that,” he said.

Official data released on Wednesday showed that Britain’s economy shrank 0.5 percent in the three months to September, the first quarterly contraction since 1992 and the largest drop since 1990.

Darling also told the newspaper that ministers would announce new plans next week to force Britain’s banks, several of which were bailed out by the government in October, to treat their customers fairly.

Separately, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck defended Berlin’s refusal to back a proposed multi-billion-euro economic stimulus plan, dismissing it as “ineffective populist measures.”

Germany does not have to go along with the idea of spending more to ease the economic crisis just because other countries are doing so, Steinbrueck told the weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel.

“We can ease [the effects of the crisis] in a targeted way. But we are not all powerful,” he said, adding that he rejected “the argument that ‘a lot of help helps a lot.’”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week was cool to the idea pushed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to contribute to a proposed 200 billion euro (US$254 billion) European stimulus plan drafted by Brussels.

“The Germans do not have to accept a European proposal where we do not understand what could be the economic impact,” the Social Democrat minister said.

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