Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Snow business posted by Richard Seymour
The construction sector has still not reached the bottom of the most savage recession for the industry in living memory. Cuts in government expenditure are making matters worse with more than half of building companies reporting falling levels of work in public repair and maintenance work. Our survey shows a sharp increase in those expecting workloads to contract once again in the first quarter of 2011.
The Government is pinning its hopes of economic recovery on the creation of new jobs in the private sector but its policies are having exactly the opposite effect in the building sector. The increase in the rate of VAT earlier this month will cost the construction sector nearly 7,500 jobs this year alone. Cuts in public sector spending on social housing are having a particularly adverse impact with nearly half of building companies reporting that work in this sector had fallen.
The construction sector has the potential to build Britain out of recession and we know that for every £1 spent on construction output generates a total of £2.84 in total economic activity. If this could be coupled with expenditure on infrastructure projects as well as tackling the growing housing crisis the Government would be building the real foundations for a sustained economic recovery.
There are some in the ruling class who aren't very happy. Though the CBI has generally been approving of the government's 'austerity' programme, its outgoing chief has said that: "It's not enough just to slam on the spending brakes. Measures that cut spending but killed demand would actually make matters worse." Like many of the bosses, he seems to want some sort of magical remedy whereby the government could cut spending and stimulate growth at the same time. Finance capital is also gravely murmuring about the "stunningly bad" GDP data - but they fucking asked for this, and it can't be long before they'll be demanding more money from the public purse, then pushing for another austerity budget to pay off the bankers and keep the financial assets of the rich afloat for another few months before the whole thing collapses again.
Despite the denials and the absurd, utterly feeble attempt to pin this on the weather, these figures represent a political problem for the government - especially if they're starting to lose sections of business and the petit bourgoisie on account of it. I expect the medium term effect might be to see more businesses swing behind Labour and its quasi-Keynesian remedies. For its part, Labour, in a bid to remain in capital's orbit, will constantly feel a gravitational pull to the right. Unless, of course, the student rebellions and the strike ballots being prepared in the public sector become a much more power countervailing force.