Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Obama sees economic hope

WASHINGTON - PRESIDENT Barack Obama said in a major speech on the economy on Tuesday that the United States faced a long slog in finding its way out of the economic and financial tumult battering the country but repeated that he is seeing signs of hope.

Coming out of an intense two weeks focused on international affairs, including a hostage drama after Somali pirates briefly hijacked an American ship, the White House is shifting American and global attention back to the financial storm that has ravaged the world.

'There is no doubt that times are still tough. By no means are we out of the woods just yet. But from where we stand, for the very first time, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope,' the president said in excerpts of prepared remarks he will deliver later on Tuesday at Georgetown University.

Reaching into the Bible for his material, Mr Obama cited Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, to compare the American economic system he inherited to the man who build his house on a pile of sand. The new economy that Mr bama said will emerge from America's worst economic tailspin in seven decades must be like the strong house built by the man who used a foundation of stone.

'It is that house upon the rock. Proud, sturdy, and unwavering in the face of the greatest storm,' he said. 'We will not finish it in one year or even many, but if we use this moment to lay that new foundation; if we come together and begin the hard work of rebuilding; if we persist and persevere against the disappointments and setbacks that will surely lie ahead, then I have no doubt that this house will stand and the dream of our founders will live on in our time.'

Economists are divided on whether it is beginning to blow itself out or just in the midst of a lull, before striking hard again. But with some good news trickling out of various sectors in the US economy and his administration nearing the symbolic 100-day mark, Mr Obama felt the need to sum up what his administration has done so far and draw a map of where it wants to take the economic system.

The speech did not outline any new programs or initiatives.

Previewing the president's remarks, the head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers said people should expect more job losses in the coming months.

But at the same time, Christina Romer said on Tuesday that administration officials also are detecting 'small little signs that maybe some parts of the economy are stabilising.'

'We've got several more months of job loss, so we don't really want to lead people to believe that spring is right here for the economy,' she said on NBC television's 'Today' show. -- AP

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