Alistair Darling will deliver his final Budget before the election on Wednesday, under pressure to convince the markets he is serious about cutting Britain's record deficit while offering Labour MPs some pre-polling day cheer.
With the election thought to be just six weeks away, the Chancellor will have to walk a fine line as he seeks to offer voters hope for the future while beginning the grim task of spelling out where the spending axe will fall.
He has said repeatedly that there will be none of the traditional pre-election give-aways, instead promising a "sensible, workmanlike" financial package, intended to stimulate the fragile economic recovery.
Officials have made clear that an unexpected "windfall" from better-than-expected Government borrowing figures - put by some experts at £12 billion - would be used primarily to reduce the £178 billion deficit rather than fund a spending spree.
There will be some populist announcements - including a new crackdown on tax evasion, with punitive fines for wealthy investors who try to hide money in offshore tax havens - intended to send a political message that the economic pain will be spread fairly.
Mr Darling is expected to order the part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds to provide a further £90 billion in business lending after complaints that the Government has not done enough to restore the flow of credit.
There will also be a new requirement on the banks to provide a basic account to every adult UK citizen, intended to address the problems of "financial exclusion" faced by many of the poorest people in the country.
The Chancellor is expected to unveil details of a £2 billion "green" investment fund to finance projects such as wind farms and other renewable energy sources, although it is not expected to come on stream until next year.
There has been speculation also that Mr Darling will use what limited room for manoeuvre he has to provide further assistance to the young unemployed who have been particularly hard hit by the recession. However the attention of the markets will be largely focused on measures to cut Government spending.
It was widely felt that Mr Darling did not go far enough in his Pre-Budget Report (PBR) in December spelling out how he would achieve the savings necessary to meet his target of halving the deficit within four years.