Back into recession, austerity yet to fully bite, pressure from backbenchers, the Opposition and world leaders - the Government needs to take bold action to show that austerity and growth can go together. It should do more to make infrastructure attractive to investors around the world and to voters here at home - I've got five recommendations for how the Government can do this.
Show me the money
Commentators, economists and business groups agree that investing in infrastructure - new roads, railways, nuclear plants - would create jobs and stimulate growth. Even Christine Lagarde and the IMF want to see it happen. And yet, the OBR's forecasts show that Government investment in infrastructure will fall from £38bn in 2010-11 to £23bn in 2014-15.
The Government wants to fill this gap with private money. Its National Infrastructure Plan was supposed provide the certainty to help unlock the £750bn+ of cash that the ITEM Club says private (non-financial) companies are hoarding (that's worth 50% of GDP). But the money hasn't flowed in and the Prime Minister even called upon the Treasury to do more for infrastructure in a speech last Thursday.
So if the Government really wants any political wins from infrastructure before the end of this Parliament, it needs to be more radical. Here's five ideas on what they should do:
1. Set a clear policy direction
Before stumping up billions of pounds, investors want certainty. So far the Government hasn't done enough to provide this.
Take aviation policy. It's widely accepted that UK PLC needs more trade with the BRICS. But, for example, whilst we have over thirty direct weekday flights from London to New York, there are only two to Sao Paulo - and Heathrow is already full.
In the overdue Aviation Framework the Government should unambiguously support more airport capacity for London. It should back plans to use the spare capacity at Stansted in the short term and, for the longer term, decide whether to expand Heathrow or build a brand new hub airport.
2. Pick a few winners
This Government is philosophically averse to picking winners. But it's begun to be braver in the energy sector. It's holding a competition for a £1bn fund to support the development of a full scale Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plant. And this week's announcement on the draft energy bill - the Government backing nuclear power - should make the UK more attractive to investors.
It remains to be seen if the bill will provide enough certainty for investment in offshore wind, wave and tidal power. It needs to provide certainty for the likes of E.On, RWE npower, ScottishPower and SSE to invest, but also enough opportunities to encourage other entrants to the market like Ecotricity, Good Energy and RES.
Whether you call this picking winners or not, the Government should apply this bolder approach to other sectors.
3. Bring forward investment decisions
Government takes too long to make decisions. For example, rail projects like the Northern Hub, Midland Main Line electrification and improving the lines to Stansted have been in the pipeline for years but won't get final funding decisions till the summer.
The Government should get on with funding schemes like these that drive growth. It should also bring forward the development of the northern sections of HS2 to Manchester, Leeds and Scotland, and give in-principle backing for Crossrail 2, as Lord Adonis and London First have called for in a new report.
4. Look at the big picture
Every Government talks about being joined-up, and most don't achieve it. It's no good, for example, BIS encouraging enterprise zones around the country if DCMS doesn't enable the likes of BT Openreach and Virgin Media to install superfast broadband.
Equally, Grant Shapps won't get much needed new homes built if DEFRA doesn't get the right waste and water facilities built quickly enough.
All Government departments should be required to back their decisions with an assessment of the wider economic impacts of policies. A Network Rail and KPMG report, backed by CBI, has previously set out how this could be done for transport and this logic should be applied more widely.
5. Think big
Committing to HS2 early on was a great statement of intent, but since then the Government has been much more timid.
It should think bigger and more radically. Why not take up the ideas of David MacKay, chief scientist at DECC, for building hydro-electric pumped storage power stations in Wales, or look at how the UK can benefit from the radical plans of Desertec for solar farms in the desert (set out by Professor Michael Düren on this very website)?
Be bold and lead the world
The economy does face some huge challenges in the coming years, emphasised by the on-going Grexit/Euro crisis. Our Government needs to focus on those things it can actually directly affect - infrastructure investment is one area where it can make a real difference.
If the Government can be bolder, and implement some of the ideas set out above, then they might actually make Britain a world leader in infrastructure and an attractive place to invest. Then a lot more people might start thinking that infrastructure is sexy.
Follow Tom Wadsworth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TomWWadsworth