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    Bush Says US Economy Healthy, But Stimulus Needed

    President Bush says the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong, but admits the nation is currently in a period of economic uncertainty. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports the president says the stimulus package he will sign into law Wednesday will provide a much needed boost.

    The president says the $152 billion stimulus package of tax rebates and business incentives will keep the economy strong.

    "I'm looking forward to signing it," he said. "It's going to help deal with the uncertainties in this economy."

    Mr. Bush spoke as he signed off on his annual economic report to Congress - a Washington tradition much like the State of the Union Address and the submission of his yearly budget proposal.

    "This report indicates that our economy is structurally sound for the long term, and that we're dealing with uncertainties in the short term," he said.

    In the report, the president calls on Congress to take further action to strengthen the economy. He urges lawmakers to make the tax cuts enacted in his first term permanent, and to do more to help struggling homeowners.

    The document, which was put together by the president's team of economic advisers, predicts modest economic growth this year - 2.7 percent - and a slightly higher three percent growth rate next year.

    These are more optimistic figures than those put forward by private sector economists. And hanging over all this, is the fear among the consuming public that the U.S. economy could be headed for a recession.

    Edward Lazear - the president's chief economic adviser - says the stimulus package, combined with aggressive action on interest rates by the U.S. central bank, will be enough to keep the economy from a sustained downturn.

    "We believe that the stimulus package that was voted on last week will be quite effective in ensuring against these downside risks," he said. "And we think they will keep the economy from slipping into lower levels of growth."

    Lazear also points to increased U.S. exports as a big economic plus.

    "Net exports shifted from reducing GDP growth [growth in the national output of goods and services] to being a significant contributor in 2007," he said. "In large part this resulted from growth in the economies of our trading partners, from our own productivity growth and from changes in the terms of trade."

    Lazear says the Bush White House remains committed to open trade. The administration is currently pushing for congressional approval of pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

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