Rishi Sunak’s GDP growth claim based on long-term forecasts

25 May 2023
What was claimed

The IMF forecasts that the UK will have stronger growth than Germany, France and Italy.

Our verdict

This is true looking at longer-term projections—Treasury figures based on IMF projections suggest that between 2025 and 2028 the UK will have higher cumulative GDP growth than Italy, France and Germany. But in both 2023 and 2024 the UK is projected to have the second lowest growth rate in the G7.

“The IMF, which he was very keen to quote just a few months ago, is now forecasting that we will have stronger growth than Germany, France and Italy.”

“UK long-term growth prospects [are] stronger than Germany, France and Italy.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 24 May, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “is now forecasting that we will have stronger growth than Germany, France and Italy”.

Mr Sunak did not specify what time period he was referring to. It is true that when looking at the IMF’s projections for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth from 2025 onwards, the UK is forecast to have higher growth than Germany, France and Italy. But when looking at its forecasts for growth over the next two years, projections for UK GDP growth are among the lowest in the G7.

GDP is a key measure of the strength of a country’s economy, and is based on the value of goods and services produced during a given period.

In a tweet sent the same day, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt shared a graph from the Treasury which made a similar claim, but it was clearly caveated as relating to “long-term growth”. 

The graph shows the cumulative total of the IMF’s projections for the GDP growth rates of the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States) between 2025 and 2028.

Government ministers and their departments must take care to present data and statistics with all necessary context and caveats. If data is presented without context or caveats, it can give an incomplete or misleading picture.

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What do the IMF forecasts show?

The Treasury graph based on the IMF’s projections suggests that, between 2025 and 2028, the UK’s GDP will see the third-highest cumulative annual growth in the G7, behind the US and Canada. (We’ve not seen precise figures from the Treasury, but the graph suggests a UK cumulative annual growth rate of around 7.5%—only very slightly behind Canada and trailing the US on around 8%—which appears to be broadly in line with the IMF’s figures.)

In all years between 2025 and 2028—what the Treasury graph and Mr Hunt referred to as “long-term”—the UK is projected to see higher annual GDP growth than Italy, France and Germany. 

However, short-term projections show a different picture. This week, the IMF revised its projection for the UK’s growth in 2023 up from -0.3%, to 0.4%—an increase of 0.7 percentage points.

But this revised projection still suggests the UK’s rate of growth will be the second lowest in the G7, after Germany, which is projected to have a growth rate of -0.1% this year.

Similarly, in 2024 the UK is currently projected to have the second lowest growth rate in the G7 at 0.9%, ahead of Italy (0.8%).

We’ve not seen the Treasury publish an estimate of cumulative projected growth totals over the entire period between 2023 and 2028. But, taking into account the revised projection for 2023, data published by the IMF in April 2023 suggests the cumulative projected GDP growth for the UK over this long-term period would be the third largest in the G7—behind the US and Canada, but ahead of Germany, France and Italy, as well as Japan.

We asked Number 10 and the Treasury for comment but did not receive a response.

Image courtesy of HM Treasury

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