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Good times ready to roll

Top economists believe consumers will increase their spending power in Ireland and spark a rapid recovery in the economy over the next two years.

ESRI chief Prof John Fitzgerald has said that there will be a slight lift in the economy within 2010 boosted by increased exports and consumer spending.

And he believes the country can return to 2007 levels within three or four years time.

"We were catching up on the richer countries in the world," he said. "We got there too fast, so we had to step back, but we will return to growth."

Prof Fitzgerald believes the recovery will be driven by foreigners wanting to buy our goods but that these need to be more competitive.

"If we don't see a fall in prices, then the recovery will be slow," Prof Fitzgerald said.

Adviser to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, Dr Alan Ahearne, echoed the comments and said that lower costs were already "kickstarting growth".

And in a separate report, Bank of Ireland chief economist Dan McLaughlin said he expects imports to fall by 2pc but believes that exports will pick up by 3.5pc over the year.

The bank forecasts growth of 1pc for this year.