Obama will overhaul US infrastructure to create jobs

US President-elect Barack Obama announced his economic plans Saturday, vowing to make the largest investment in infrastructure since the 1950s, and reducing foreign oil dependency as part of his plan to create 2.5 million new jobs.


AFP - US President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday vowed to make the largest investment in the country's infrastructure since the 1950s and bolster development of broadband Internet connections as part of his program to create 2.5 million new jobs.

The announcement came less than a week after the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research officially said the United Sates was in a recession, which began in December 2007.

Last month, Obama announced that he had asked his economic team to develop an economic recovery plan that will help save or create 2.5 million jobs, while rebuilding US infrastructure, improving schools, reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil and saving billions of dollars.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, the president-elect unveiled five specific components of the plan that he believes will help the country overcome the recession.

"We won't do it the old Washington way," Obama said about his plan. "We won't just throw money at the problem. We'll measure progress by the reforms we make and the results we achieve - by the jobs we create, by the energy we save, by whether America is more competitive in the world."

Under the plan, the Obama administration will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs.

"Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that" said the president elect.

The future Democratic president also pledged to create employment on a mass scale.

"We will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s," he said.

"We'll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we'll set a simple rule - use it or lose it," he said. "If a state doesn't act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they'll lose the money."

The plan, according to Obama, also calls for launching a sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings by making them energy-efficient and equipped with computers.

"Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools," he argued.

Obama also vowed to increase the accessibility of broadband Internet connections in the United States, making them available to schoolchildren and hospitals.

"It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption," he said. "Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they'll get that chance when I'm president - because that's how we'll strengthen America's competitiveness in the world."

The president-elect also said the government must ensure that hospitals are connected to each other through the Internet.

Obama has promised a series of strong anti-recession measures early in his administration, vowing to return people to work.

According to official government data, the US economy contracted at a 0.2 percent pace in the fourth quarter of 2007 but grew 0.8 percent in the first quarter and 2.8 percent in the second quarter of 2008. It then contracted 0.5 percent in the third quarter, based on a provisional estimate.

The committee that made the recession assessment issued no forecast on how long it will last, but said that in the past they have run from six to 18 months.

The jobless rate, based on a separate survey of households, rose last month to 6.7 percent, the highest since October 1993 but slightly better than the consensus estimate of economists of 6.8 percent. That survey showed 2.7 million people have joined the jobless ranks since the recession began.

The stunning retrenchment cut 533,000 jobs from US payrolls in November, sending the unemployment rate to a 15-year high, according to official data.

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