David Prosser: The day the sun came out again

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The Independent Online

Outlook Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life. If the consensus view is right, the Office for National Statistics will today unveil the first positive GDP figure for 18 months. Recession over. Break out the party poppers. Woo-hoo.

If only. The statistic today will be very slightly negative or very slightly positive (it might even be revised from one to the other in a month or so), but either way, the world will feel just as it did yesterday. Our economy is not on target for a return to trend levels of growth any time soon.

The final economic data released prior to today's announcement made the point very neatly. Weak retail sales figures and poor lending statistics reveal that the recovery is patchy. It will continue to be so – we could have further quarters of negative GDP growth, or successive quarters of anaemic numbers. Unemployment will continue rising, taxes will rise and spending will fall.

And still. This recession could have been so much worse. The dire predictions made by economists and business folk as recently as six months ago have not come to pass. There has been no descent into deflation. Asset prices are recovering. Joblessness is not rising as quickly as once we feared.

We can argue about the extent to which the Government is culpable for the downturn, or about whether the Bank of England was slow to see the recession coming. But we should give credit to the policy response. The PM was the first global leader to recognise that the most dramatic response imaginable to the financial crisis was necessary. Reflationary measures have since been pursued with vigour.

So, if the recession really is declared over today, allow Gordon Brown a rare smile.

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