Thursday, March 29, 2007

Irish economic growth in 2006 was the best since 2002

Eoin Burke-Kennedy:

The Irish economy grew by 6 per cent last year - the highest level since 2002, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO's quarterly national accounts shows Gross Domestic Product at constant prices rose 6 per cent in 2006.

Gross National Product (GNP) - which includes income arising from investment and assets owned abroad - for the same period was 7.4 per cent.

GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2006 was 5 per cent compared with the same period in 2005 while the corresponding growth in GNP was 7.5 per cent.

The CSO noted consumer spending in volume terms rose by 6.2 per cent in 2006 compared with the previous year but this represented a slight slowdown in the rate of growth.

Capital investment, at constant prices, was 3.9 per cent higher in 2006 than in 2005 while the volume of industrial output accelerated from 3.4 per cent to 6.1 per cent.

Net Exports (which is exports minus imports) in constant prices were €569million higher in 2006 than the previous year.

Separate CSO figures show the balance of payments deficit increased from 4.2 billion in 2005 to 5.7 billion last year.

This was in part due merchandise exports of €21,644m which were almost €1 billion lower than for the same quarter in 2005 but remained relatively flat throughout 2006, the CSO said.

Minister for Finance Brian Cowen said the figures confirm that economic activity remains "particularly buoyant".

Mr Cowen said: "The figures are in excess of what most commentators had been assuming. There was an improvement in our export performance last year mainly due to higher services exports."

"In terms of this year, my Department is forecasting a continuation of strong economic growth, with GDP and GNP both expected to rise by 5.3 per cent," he added.

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