Saturday 20 January 2018

Central Bank increases growth forecasts for 2015, 2016

Shoppers on Grafton Street in Dublin
Shoppers on Grafton Street in Dublin

The Central Bank increased its growth forecasts for the economy, saying gross domestic product (GDP) would rise 4.1pc this year and 4.2pc in 2016 on a further strengthening of domestic demand.

That compared to GDP growth forecasts of 3.7pc and 3.8pc three months ago and follows growth of 4.8pc last year, when the economy's turned in its strongest performance since 2007 and showed the fastest growth in the European Union.

However, consumer sentiment dropped due to a number of issues including fears about the global economy as well as the high-profile close of Clery's raising concerns at home.

A survey by the ESRI and KBC Bank Ireland for July showed sentiment down to 99.7 in the month –off more than three points on the June figure although ti was ten points higher year-on-year.

GDP data for the first quarter was due to be published on Thursday, but the central bank said the signs emerging from a broad range of other figures point to an increase in the pace of domestic demand growth in the first-half of this year.

It sees personal consumption growing by 2.3pc in both 2015 and 2016 - supported by similar levels of wage growth in both years - while investment will continue to rise sharply, with construction activity bouncing back after a property crash.

The central bank, which has raised concerns about the slow response to housing shortages, said it expects 13,000 new units to be built in 2015 and 15,000 in 2016, up from an average of fewer than 10,000 each year since 2011 but less than half the 30,000 per year the government says is required to meet demand.

The bank said an EU-set target of cutting the budget deficit to below 3pc of GDP this year would be comfortably met, and again urged the government to resist the temptation to consume unanticipated surplus revenues.

The government has received similar warnings that budgetary plans risk a return to the ill-fated policies of the past from the country's independent fiscal watchdog, but has said it will press ahead with plans to increase spending and cut taxes before elections next year.

"The strong growth outlook implies that there is no need for fiscal policy to support economic activity and, importantly, also provides an opportunity to move ahead with fiscal consolidation and debt reduction," the central bank's quarterly report said.

"Indeed, with strong growth in prospect, it is important that the fiscal stance does not exacerbate cyclical pressures. Ireland's past experience demonstrates the damage that can be caused."

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