02/08/2011 03:44 BST | Updated 01/10/2011 06:12 BST

IMF: 'Bumpy And Uneven Recovery' Ahead If Growth Does Not Return

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Britain will have a "bumpy and uneven recovery" and ministers must be ready to change economic policy if growth and inflation do not develop as they hope, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned.

In an assessment of the state of the UK economy, the IMF gave its backing to the Government's policy of "fiscal consolidation" to cut the deficit through tax hikes and spending cuts, backed by low interest rates set by the Bank of England.

But the international finance body warned that the growth outlook was "subject to considerable uncertainties", and predicted a GDP hike of just 1.5% this year and 2.5% in 2012 - slightly below the 1.7% in 2011 and 2.5% for 2012 forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility at the time of George Osborne's budget in March.

Weaker than expected growth might require the Government to adopt "looser macroeconomic policies" such as tax cuts to stimulate demand, while the Bank launches a fresh round of quantitative easing - effectively printing money - said the IMF.

However, the Bank must be ready to intervene to dampen demand by increasing interest rates from their record low of 0.5% if there are signs inflation is taking off, said the report.

Inflation can be expected to remain "well above 4%" for the remainder of 2011 before declining to near the Government's 2% target by the end of next year, it added.

The directors of the IMF "consider the current mix of accommodative monetary and tight fiscal policy to be appropriate", said Monday's report.

But it added: "Directors noted that the growth outlook is subject to considerable uncertainties. They agreed that policies may need to adjust in the event of a change in macroeconomic conditions. In particular, if growth and inflation surprise on the upside, monetary tightening would need to accelerate.

"Conversely, mounting evidence that weak demand is likely to cause the economy to stall and enter a period of prolonged low growth would call for looser macroeconomic policies."

The deputy director of the IMF's European Department Ajai Chopra said that the most likely scenario for the UK economy is a gradual recovery, with continued "headwinds" due to the sluggish housing market, Government belt-tightening and businesses and individuals paying off their debts. However, writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Chopra said that another possible scenario could see "a prolonged period of weak growth, high unemployment, and subdued inflation".