The UK economy is "bouncing along the bottom" and could take another three years to heal, Ken Clarke has suggested.
The Cabinet minister said the 0.3% GDP growth figure for the first quarter of this year was better than many other Western countries.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
But he warned that UK plc was likely to be just "keeping its head above the water" until after the general election.
"We are bouncing along the bottom, not achieving normal growth because we are in the middle of a good financial crisis gripping the Western world. We were left with a public deficit and debt which rivalled Greece, size for size," he told Sky News.
Mr Clarke, whose portfolio includes advising Chancellor George Osborne, said Britain was "slowly getting out of it" - arguing that the UK was cutting spending slower than France, where the government was elected on an anti-austerity platform.
"We are not going back into recession as most of the Western economies are. We are cutting spending more slowly than almost any of the other western European sovereign debt infected countries," he said.
"We are cutting our public spending slower than President Hollande's government in France."
Mr Clarke said the coalition would press ahead with its plan while that pace was "good enough to heal the economy".
"We are keeping out heads above the water, but we have got one or two, or three years even, still to go," he added. "We have got to be allowed to finish the job."
Forbes rich list: the world's top ten billionaires
Recovery may take years - Clarke
The Mexican self-made telecoms mogul tops the rich list with a wealth that, as Forbes reports, if it were a country would be the eighth richest in Latin America.
Dubbed the world's most generous person, Bill Gates made his fortune as the brains behind Microsoft and has reportedly already donated $28 billion of his wealth to charity so far.
Spanish billionaire Ortega is the man behind the clothes brand Zara and is this year's biggest rich list gainer, making $19.5 billion last year and moving him into third position.
Buffett made his billions as CEO, primary shareholder and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, A diversified company with interest in GEICO, life insurance, annuity sales and sales of jewellery. He recently signed a lucrative deal to acquire Heinz Ketchup.
Ellison founded Oracle Corporation, a leading enterprise software company. He's America's third richest man and Forbes has reported that he recently bought 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai from David Murdock for a reported sum of $500 million.
Koch built his fortune on chemicals and refining and shares the sixth position on the rich list with his billionaire brother, David Koch.
Tied sixth in the rich list with his elder brother Charles, David runs the chemical equipment side of Koch Industries from his New York home.
This self-made billionaire is Asia's richest man and currently supplies a quarter of British people with gas after acquiring British gas supplier Wales & West Utilities for $1 billion last October.
The only woman in the top ten, Bettencourt's father founded L'Oreal and now she and her family own 30% of the French cosmetics super brand.
Branded by Forbes as the 'World's most influential tastemaker' Arnault owns the luxury goods powerhouse LVHM, Moet Hennessy - Luis Vuitton.