“We hope you prove us wrong.”
“We’re very focused on proving you wrong.”
The exchange between Jeremy Hunt and IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva, captured by Sky News in Washington DC, tells you rather a lot about the Chancellor’s week here in Washington.
This was Mr Hunt’s first International Monetary Fund meeting since taking on his new role.
And while it has certainly gone better than it went for his predecessor (by the Friday of the previous meetings, Kwasi Kwarteng had already left early to be fired) it has been overshadowed by a familiar controversy.
The Fund has forecast that the UK will be the weakest of all the major industrialised economies, with its gross domestic product contracting by 0.3 per cent this year.
Mr Hunt insisted today, both to Ms Georgieva and to Sky News that he will “prove the Fund wrong”, and that Britain’s economy will outperform.
“I think the context here is that last year we had the fastest growing G7 economy. So, we did very well last year. We have so far avoided recession this year. So the economy has shown resilience, but we want to be growing faster.
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“The Office for Budget Responsibility, which is the government’s official forecaster, has much more optimistic forecasts [than the IMF], so if you’re asking me which I think is more likely to be the case, I would go with the OBR.
“The IMF have traditionally undershot [with their forecasts] and the American Treasury Secretary… has said that she is much more optimistic than the IMF are about the American economy. So I’m not the only one who’s making those comments.”
Talking about the vote from the Royal College of Nursing against the recent pay offer from the government, Mr Hunt said: “It is very challenging in the NHS anyway, but if you add the pressure of strikes onto what is already a very precious service, it makes it very difficult to bring down waiting times.
“We’re dealing with a record high in waiting times after the pandemic and that’s why I urge people still voting for this pay deal to recognise the fact the fact that union leaders said it’s reasonable.
“Patients want the NHS to be back to normal, and it will be better for staff as well.”
Ms Georgieva wrote on Twitter after the meeting: “Very happy to welcome the UK’s Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Governor Andrew Bailey in Washington.
“We had a very good discussion of the improved economic outlook for the UK and the need for global cooperation to support poor and vulnerable countries.”