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Experts' view

ECONOMY

Allan Wilen Our latest Achievable Targets review of Government's delivery of its promises on the built environment finds that, whilst some progress is being made, important targets are also being missed. Recent progress has been greatest on the provision of new school and health premises and improving the existing social housing stock. Indeed these were key growth areas for construction activity during the fist half of the year. But our report finds that the present upturn in delivery will have to be maintained over the next three years if the Government is to deliver promised long-term improvements in these areas. Unfortunately our report also highlights mounting concern over the transport infrastructure amid a sharp downturn in infrastructure activity over the last year. Many of the Government's original targets are already seriously at risk and there is no evidence of its determination to get the programme 'back on track'.

Jerry McLaughlin Earlier fears about a fall in construction activity due to declining economic performance and falling consumer confidence due to a housing shock look well wide of the mark now. As in recent years, negative expectations have been overstated and sectors have performed more strongly than expected to keep the bottom line numbers positive. Looking at 2005, its a fair bet that the housing market will be relatively flat as the long promised increase in social housing actually starts to happen, but the other two big sectors - commercial and infrastructure - have very different outlooks.

The early 1990s-style commercial boom and bust has not been repeated.We've had the boom, but not the bust.