London: British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday vowed to help businesses create jobs and spur growth, less than a week after his coalition government unleashed the biggest public spending cuts in decades.
“There is one question I want to answer today: Where is the growth going to come from - and where are the jobs going to come from,” Cameron said at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
“Over the course of this parliament - and the next - I believe we can transform our fortunes,” he told the country’s biggest employers’ body, whose leader Richard Lambert has backed the cuts.
This year’s event is framed by the comprehensive spending review, in which the coalition announced plans to cut almost half a million jobs, slashing budgets and welfare benefits as it seeks to curb a huge deficit.
Some economists have suggested that another half a million jobs could be shed in the private sector, as a result of the stinging cutbacks that were unveiled last week.
But Cameron promised a “forensic, relentless focus on growth” in the coming months, as he looked to drive the agenda away from the cuts in his speech to business leaders.
The Conservative party leader said his goverment would seek to create an investment environment in which British companies could flourish and tap into industries where they enjoyed a competitive advantage.
“To build that new dynamism in our economy, to create the growth, jobs and opportunities Britain needs, we’ve got to back the big businesses of tomorrow, not just the big businesses of today,” he added.
“That means opening up access to finance, creating an attractive environment for venture capital funding, getting banks lending to small businesses again and insisting that a far greater proportion of government procurement budgets are spent with small and medium sized firms.”
Cameron announced a 200-million-pound (310-million-dollar, 225-million-euro) network of so-called technology innovation centres, that aim to link up British businesses with researchers at major universities.
And he published a so-called national infrastructure plan which aims to create 200 billion pounds of long-term investment from both the public and private sector.
“The prime minister demonstrated a real passion for business and an understanding that only business will create growth,” noted CBI director-general Lambert.
“There was a welcome emphasis on the need to re-boot the country’s infrastructure, with a coherent vision of what needs to be done over the next five years to secure economic growth.”
In a world of “unpredented economic change”, the PM also appealed for innovative companies to expand.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Britain, for new start-ups to flourish, for innovations to drive growth and create jobs,” added Cameron, whose government shares power with the Liberal Democrats.
The coalition is seeking to slash a record British deficit, run up under the previous Labour government, as it seeks to preserve confidence on international financial markets and avoid a Greece-style debt crisis.
“In five years’ time we will have balanced the books,” the prime minister told the CBI, which represents 240,000 businesses.
“The sharp tax rises and huge interest rates you feared, the uncertainty you felt - these are things that you no longer need to worry about.”
Other speakers at the one-day conference include the new chief executives of Barclays bank and BP, Bob Diamond and Bob Dudley, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Ed Miliband, new leader of the opposition Labour party.