Recession "worse than we thought", says UK finance minister

LONDON: Britain's recession is worse than the government expected, and the country is unlikely to return to economic growth until the end of the year, finance minister Alistair Darling said in an interview Sunday.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, chancellor of the exchequer Darling said he would be forced to revise his economic forecasts lower when he presents Britain's annual budget on April 22.

"It's worse than we thought," he told the weekly newspaper, adding that though figures on how the economy did in the first three months of the year were not yet available, "we think they will be bad, because if you look around the world there's nothing that tells you otherwise."

He refused to specify how much he thought the economy would shrink in 2009.

"I thought we would see growth in the second part of the year," he said.

"I think it will be the back end, turn of the year time, before we start seeing growth here."

Darling said that while last week's agreement by the G20 grouping of countries would help revive the global economy, "we have to be realistic about this."

"You cannot, you must not, build up false hope."

Asked by the Sunday Times whether the worst was over for Britain's economy, Darling replied: "I think there is some way to go yet. A lot really depends on how much other countries do."

Britain's economy has been hammered by the international financial crisis and resulting global downturn, with unemployment soaring to a 12-year high as the country endures its first recession in 18 years.

- AFP/yb


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