UK won't tear up cuts plans, says David Cameron
The government will not "tear up" its cuts plans and adopt Labour's alternative, David Cameron has said.
The prime minister admitted 2011, when many savings started to hit, would be a "difficult year", but argued change was needed to overcome Labour's "mess".
Any alteration of the coalition's economic course would damage worldwide confidence in the UK, he told the BBC.
Labour has accused the government of "arrogance" in making cuts which it says total £20bn this year.
After figures released last week showed the UK economy contracted by 0.5% in the last three months of 2010, opponents have urged ministers to slow down their savings programme, saying it could damage the recovery.
But Mr Cameron said the deficit left by Labour meant the cuts had to be made.
He said: "We inherited a mess. We inherited a big problem and we have to deal with it."
Mr Cameron told BBC One's Breakfast: "I won't hide from people that this is going to be a difficult year but I think we just have to keep on explaining... that if you don't deal with your debt and your deficit, you can end up like Greece or Ireland - in a real mess.
"We mustn't do that, so we have to go through this difficult year. The opposition is suggesting an alternative. I just happen to think they are wrong.
"If we suddenly said 'We are going to tear up our Budget plans, we are going to turn the taps of Government spending back on again, we are not going to care about the deficit', I think the rest of the world would say 'How can I have confidence in Britain if they are not going to pay down their debts?'
"There are always people suggesting alternatives, but I think our course is the right one and we have to see it through."
The government has come under pressure to provide more help to motorists hit by the recent increase in VAT and expected to face a 3p-a-litre rise in fuel duty from April.
Mr Cameron said: "It's very important that tax decisions are made in the Budget... What we are trying to do is have a system that, when the oil price goes up, we sort of share that of the motorist."
Writing in the Independent on Sunday, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the government's plan to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015 was "irresponsible and dangerous", and there was an alternative.
He pointed to the US economy, which saw growth towards the end of last year, arguing: "Supporting job creation, reforming our financial systems and investing in jobs for the future is the best way to get economies moving again and to cut the deficit.
"Simply slamming on the brakes with drastic tax hikes and deep spending cuts is not a credible economic policy."
Meanwhile, Mr Cameron has defended the coalition's plans for an overhaul of the NHS in England, as MPs prepare to hold their first debate on the bill on Monday.
Under the plans, GPs will get control of £80bn of the NHS budget from 2013, with primary care trusts and strategic health authorities abolished.
Health unions have denounced the changes, and Labour says the Liberal Democrats may be blamed for any consequences.
But Mr Cameron said the NHS would be altered "by evolution, not revolution", adding: "There is not privatisation taking place."
Health workers from around England are expected to converge on London to protest against the government's plans.