Central Bank sees 3% growth, warns on spending


The Central Bank of Ireland said today the economy would grow roughly three per cent this year, and urged the government to follow a "neutral course" on fiscal policy.

In its summer bulletin, the bank forecast Gross National Product growth - considered the most reliable indicator of Irish economic performance - at the low end of estimates, in part due to lingering impact from September 11th, foot-and-mouth disease and the downturn in the information technology sector.

"There are some signs...the economic performance is picking up. However, the effect of negative carryover from the latter part of last year will limit economic growth to about three per cent this year," the bank said.

In its winter forecast the bank had predicted GNP growth of 3.0 to 3.5 per cent.

The bank said inflation, running at about two percentage points above the European Union average, remained too high and said the government should avoid expansionary budgets and deficit spending.

"Following two budgets that were quite expansionary, particulary Budget 2001, the strong resource pressure in the economy would suggest that fiscal policy should be set on a broadly neutral course," the bank said.

Meanwhile Ireland's annual adjusted private sector credit growth rose to 12.4 per cent in May from 11 per cent in April, according figures released by the Central Bank today.

The underlying average growth rate for the three months to May was steady at around 12.5 per cent.

The rate of private sector credit growth has caused some concern at the central bank in recent years. While well down on the peak of more than 25 per cent in 2000, credit growth remains more than double the eurozone average.

The annual growth rate in residential mortgage lending increased slightly to 19.4 per cent compared with 19.2 per cent in April and 18.3 percent in May last year.

Lending by credit institutions to non-government residents increased by €698 million to €133.7 billion in May, an increase of 0.5 per cent on April. This compares with growth of 1.7 per cent in May 2001.

Credit institutions contributed €131 billion to the eurozone's broad money stock (M3) in May, 2.3 per cent of the total.