The UK economy is "bouncing along the bottom" and could take another three years to heal, Ken Clarke suggested on Sunday.
The Cabinet minister said the 0.3% GDP growth figure for the first quarter of this year was better than many other Western countries.
But he warned that UK plc was likely to be just "keeping its head above the water" until after the general election.
"We are bouncing along the bottom, not achieving normal growth because we are in the middle of a good financial crisis gripping the Western world. We were left with a public deficit and debt which rivalled Greece, size for size," he told Sky News' Murnaghan programme.
Clarke, whose portfolio includes advising Chancellor George Osborne, said Britain was "slowly getting out of it" - arguing that the UK was cutting spending slower than France, where the government was elected on an anti-austerity platform.
"We are not going back into recession as most of the Western economies are. We are cutting spending more slowly than almost any of the other western European sovereign debt infected countries," he said.
"We are cutting our public spending slower than President Hollande's government in France."
Clarke said the coalition would press ahead with its plan while that pace was "good enough to heal the economy".
"We are keeping out heads above the water, but we have got one or two, or three years even, still to go," he added. "We have got to be allowed to finish the job."