The Edinburgh Summit: Weak flesh dilutes teh economic plan: Growth

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The Independent Online
THE SPIRIT was willing, but the flesh was weak. When the European Community unveiled its much-touted Growth Initiative yesterday, it proved to be a disappointment when compared with the more ambitious schemes put forward in the last year.

The downbeat atmosphere matched the gloom surrounding the European economy. Henning Christophersen, the Economics Commissioner, said the picture was 'not very encouraging'. Growth was between 1.1 and 1.2 per cent of GDP this year and will be similar in 1993. Unemployment will be back at 11 per cent. Inflation is falling, but not enough.

An annex to the summit's conclusions sets out a plan to address this, but has little of substance. A new European Investment Fund is to be established, with 2bn ecus of capital. This will allow it to offer guarantees of 5-10bn ecus. The cash will be used to help smaller businesses.

The second prong of the initiative is a temporary credit facility of 5bn ecus within the EIB. This will be used for infrastructure projects. The aim is to put cash into high-profile projects similiar to the Channel Tunnel, boosting confidence and spreading optimism.

Beyond that, the EC offered only words. Mr Christophersen said the problem the EC faced was the ever-present mismatch between its abilities and intentions. It has little influence on the EC economy, as it does not control monetary or fiscal policy. The cash the new funds would provide would not even make up for the shortfall in investment next year.