Biden says some waste inevitable part of stimulus

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged on Tuesday that some waste is inevitable in the spending of a $787 billion economic stimulus package, in a characteristically blunt assessment.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Recovery Act roundtable at Pace University's Lubin School of Business in New York June 2, 2009. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“We know some of this money is going to be wasted,” Biden said during a roundtable discussion in New York with business leaders aimed at promoting the two-year stimulus plan.

The package was approved by the Democratic-led Congress in February over the objections of most Republicans, who were concerned about the potential for wasteful spending and because it will add billions of dollars to U.S. deficit spending.

President Barack Obama placed Biden in charge of supervising implementation of the stimulus to underscore his promise of strict oversight of the package, which is aimed at creating or saving 3 million to 4 million jobs.

Biden said transparency and accountability are key to the program’s success.

“There are going to be mistakes made,” said Biden. “Some people are being scammed already.”

“Our credibility depends on transparency” for how taxpayers dollars are used, he added.

Biden’s job is to help ensure that there are no bottlenecks in distributing money and that it will go to projects to help the economy recover.

He also said the country’s battered housing sector is showing some signs of life after a ravaging four-year recession.

“We’re seeing solid hints of stabilization in many markets, including housing,” Biden told a group of investors and students at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business.

His remarks come just as an industry group reported a surprisingly sharp 6.7 percent rise in “pending” home sales for April.

Biden said that even when gross domestic product stops contracting, as it has been for the past 1-1/2 years, the labor market will have to heal before a recovery fully takes hold.

“Improving an economy is not just about whether GDP is growing,” said Biden.

Neal Wolin, the newly appointed Deputy Treasury Secretary, also expressed some optimism.

“We are seeing initial signs of stability, with confidence improving and credit starting to ease,” said Wolin.

Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama