Obama vows infrastructure boost to aid economic revival

Published by rudy Date posted on December 8, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US president-elect Barack Obama on Saturday vowed to make the largest investment in the country’s infrastructure since the 1950s, as part of his plan to revitalize the slumping US economy.

The effort, which will “save or create” 2.5 million new jobs, includes plans to make public buildings more energy-efficient, build new roads and bridges, and boost broadband Internet connections, Obama said in his weekly radio address.

“We need action — and action now,” said the president-elect, after official figures showed a stunning loss of 533,000 jobs from US payrolls in November, sending the unemployment rate soaring to a 15-year high.

“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,” Obama said.

“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,” he said, without specifying how much the plan would cost to implement.

Obama called for 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 said.

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.”

In addition, the president-elect said the government must ensure hospitals are connected to each other through the Internet.

The Obama administration will make public buildings more energy-efficient by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs, he said.

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

The announcement came less than a week after the National Bureau of Economic Research said the United States was in a recession, which began in December 2007.

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

Obama said that after his inauguration on January 20 to take over from outgoing President George W. Bush, he looks forward to working with Congress to “pass a plan immediately.”

“We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least two and a half million jobs so that the nearly two million Americans who lost them know that they have a future,” the president-elect said.

Obama has promised a series of strong anti-recession measures early in his administration, vowing to return people to work and help the country overcome the economic slump.

Obama reiterated that his plan to eliminate excess spending and improve efficiency is aimed at “reducing our dependence on oil, and saving billions of dollars.”

“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.”

In a demonstration of his faith in the Internet to connect Americans, Obama announced Saturday he would promote greater transparency and interactive government with a new feature on his official transition website called “Seat at the Table.”

The initiative allows proceedings of meetings between Obama’s incoming administration and outside organizations to be published on the transition website, Change.gov, and enables members of the public to comment on them.

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