London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office has been forced to defend the country’s economic performance on Tuesday after a dire International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that the UK is set to fare worse than any other country in the developed world.
In the latest update of its economic forecasts, the IMF said that it expected the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) to contract by 0.6 percent in 2023, a downgrade from its previous assessment.
Downing Street insisted that the UK’s economy is strong despite the IMF warning that Britain’s economy will go into reverse this year.
“The IMF itself said that UK economic policy is now on the right track,” Sunak’s official spokesperson told reporters.
The spokesperson added that the UK outperformed many forecasts last year and was “predicted to grow faster than Germany and Japan over the coming years”.
The Opposition Labour Party raised an urgent question in the House of Commons on the IMF forecast and blamed it on 13 years of a Conservative Party led government’s “failure”.
“Today’s IMF assessment holds a mirror up to the wasted opportunities and it is not a pretty sight,” said Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor.
“The UK is the only major economy forecast to shrink this year. Weaker growth compared to our competitors for both of the next two years. The world upgraded, Britain downgraded. Growth even worse than sanctions-hit Russia,” said Reeves.
IMF said in its latest analysis that while the broader global economy was doing better than expected, with inflation having peaked and investment beginning to turn around, the UK economy would face a downgrade “reflecting tighter fiscal and monetary policies and financial conditions and still-high energy retail prices weighing on household budgets”.
UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said of the forecast: “The governor of the Bank of England recently said that any UK recession this year is likely to be shallower than previously predicted, however these figures confirm we are not immune to the pressures hitting nearly all advanced economies.
“Short-term challenges should not obscure our long-term prospects the UK outperformed many forecasts last year, and if we stick to our plan to halve inflation, the UK is still predicted to grow faster than Germany and Japan over the coming years.”