Belfast Telegraph

Osborne firm against calls to ease austerity

By Andrew Woodcock

Britain cannot "run away from the hard choices it faces" on the economy, Chancellor George Osborne warned yesterday, as he signalled that he will hold firm against calls for him to ease up on his austerity drive.

With increasing fears of an unprecedented triple-dip recession after the UK economy recorded negative growth in the final quarter of 2012, Mr Osborne is coming under mounting pressure to change course.

IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard said the Chancellor should "take stock" in the Budget, when a move to a slower fiscal consolidation "may well be appropriate".

And London Mayor Boris Johnson has urged Mr Osborne to "junk the rhetoric of austerity" to restore confidence in the economy.

Asked about these comments on BBC Breakfast, the Chancellor gave no indication of a change in his deficit-reduction strategy.

"Britain faces a difficult economic situation," he said. "We have got problems at home, built up by this unbalanced economy, problems in our financial sector and the debts we have built up.

"And, frankly, we have got problems abroad with many of our export markets deep in recession in Europe.

"We have got to do the things in the short term that will help - and we are investing in apprenticeships, unemployment is falling at the moment. But we have also got to do the things that will help tomorrow and in the future, and... (yesterday's) high-speed rail announcement is part of an economic regeneration package."

Mr Osborne added: "Anyone watching this programme knows that in the end you have got to pay your way in the world. Britain has heavy debts, it is borrowing a huge amount every year. Unless we do something about that, that really will blight our country's economic prospects.

"The deficit is coming down. This Government is taking these difficult decisions... We are confronting these decisions.

"In the end, Britain can't run away from the hard choices it faces. We have got to invest in our future, we have got to keep up with other countries who are making all sorts of investments in their economies, and we have got to deal with our debts."