LONDON: There is only one way Britons can drag their country out of recession: 'work harder', Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an interview published yesterday.
Mr Hague said Britain's national work ethic had been declining for decades, with people convinced they could 'live on expanded debt forever, rather than having to earn what we spend'.
Britain sank back into recession last month after the economy shrank again in the first quarter, but the government has stuck by its deep spending cuts despite concerns that they undermine growth.
'There's only one growth strategy: work hard,' Mr Hague told The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
He said of grumbling business leaders: 'They should be getting on with the task of creating more of those jobs and more of those exports, rather than complaining about it.'
Britain's coalition government has implemented huge cuts in public spending and raised taxes in a bid to slash a record deficit inherited from the previous Labour government in 2010.
Mr Hague's blunt comments came a week after business leaders criticised the government for not doing enough to boost economic growth.
They said policies outlined in the Queen's Speech last week should have included 'drastic deregulation'.
In the interview, Mr Hague shot back, saying the government was already 'rebalancing' the economy with more private-sector jobs and was progressively cutting corporation tax, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Instead, he insisted that business leaders should do more to create jobs. He also said the nation's work ethic needed to be saved 'in the nick of time'.
Asked if his rhetoric could be compared to that of Lord Tebbit, the former Conservative employment secretary who was accused of brusquely sending the unemployed an 'on your bike' message in the 1980s, Mr Hague replied: 'It's more than that. It's 'get on the plane, go and sell things overseas, go and study overseas'. It's much more than getting on the bike; the bike didn't go that far.'
Mr Hague's 'work harder' message seems to be a key part of the government's effort to justify its economic plan and strike a chord with 'strivers' and hard-pressed families.
The government's economic policy will be placed under the microscope again this week with the release of key economic forecasts which could prompt the Bank of England to revise its growth predictions downwards.
Currently, the Bank expects the economy to grow by 1 per cent this year and more than 2 per cent next year, but experts believe these figures will be lowered, sparking further market jitters on top of the existing euro zone crisis, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne have been ridiculed in the past for their privileged backgrounds, which critics say make them out of touch with the lives of ordinary citizens.
By contrast, Mr Hague, a former comprehensive schoolboy who comes from a humbler background, seemed an obvious choice for delivering the government's potentially inflammatory message.
Yesterday, opposition lawmakers from the Labour Party said it was ministers who have to work harder, BBC news reported.