Irish economy growing ahead of EU average
IRELAND'S economy will continue to grow faster than the EU average, European Commission vice president Olli Rehn has said.
But growth will continue at a slower pace next year.
The Brussels-based body has revised back its growth projections for Ireland, saying the economy would grow at a slower pace next year than the Government expected. At the launch of the Commission's autumn economic forecasts, Mr Rehn said Ireland had been recording growth above the EU average for the last two years.
"Unemployment has been declining at a steady pace and is expected to continue this encouraging trend," he said.
It comes as Finance Minister Michael Noonan met the head of the eurozone group of finance ministers to discuss Ireland's bailout exit options. Mr Noonan and Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem held discussions in The Hague yesterday, which the Department of Finance described as "constructive".
Ireland leaves the bailout programme on December 15 and Mr Noonan has held a series of international meetings with the IMF and European leaders to assess whether the country should apply for a so-called precautionary credit line to ease the transition from bailout to full market access. Crucial to any decision will be the level of conditions attached which could be imposed – even if the Government opts to apply for it but not draw down any money.
The Government has said the decision is "finely balanced", with the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) having already built up a €25bn cash buffer which Mr Noonan described as a significant backstop in itself.
"The objective is to secure a sustainable exit that supports economic growth and job creation," a department spokesman said.
Mr Rehn said Irish growth in 2014 would be just 1.7pc – less than the 2pc forecast by the Department of Finance in the Budget.
And the Commission said the economy would remain largely flat this year, growing by just 0.3pc. This is broadly in line with the Government's predictions for growth of 0.2pc. Growth will accelerate to 2.5pc in 2015, according to the EU's executive arm. There are increasing signs that the European economy has reached a turning point," Mr Rehn said. "The fiscal consolidation and structural reforms have created the basis for recovery," he added.