16 July 2009, 18:17  IMF: growth of credit falls to nearly zero

Repairing and shoring-up Britain's banks is the most urgent task to ensure an economic recovery that remains uncertain and is set to be both “slow and subdued”, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told the Government today. In its annual health check of the UK economy, the IMF again turned the spotlight on the role of the banks' intense squeeze on lending in holding back a revival in the economy. "The growth of credit has fallen to nearly zero, and is expected to remain low in the near-term," the IMF said, pointing to banks' continued curbs on loans as they fight to strengthen their finances after the credit crisis. The report from the IMF's Executive Board warned that pressures on the banking system, and so the danger to recovery, could escalate as the slump led to more past loans to businesses and consumers going bad. The IMF called for the Government to take steps to encourage banks to raise more capital and improve the shape of their finances, with some of the fund's directors calling for the Treasury to stand ready to inject more public funds into the banking system if needed. While the IMF repeated recent assessments that the economy is stabilising and set to return to meagre growth by next year, with GDP tipped by the fund's forecasters to rise by 0.2 per cent in 2010, it turned up the heat on Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling over huge government borrowing, which is expected to reach a massive 13 per cent of GDP this year and next, with the national debt set to reach almost 100 per cent of national income in the next five years. "The crisis and the ensuing recession have led to a rapid deterioration of public finances," it noted, with its director arguing that this was a "significant vulnerability". The IMF said that the Government must take credible steps to put the public finances back on to a more sustainable footing

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