Belfast Telegraph

Minister predicts economic growth

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has predicted Ireland will sky-rocket if the global economy improves.

The minister defended the Government's austerity measures, saying Ireland has been forced to become more competitive on a worldwide scale as a result.

"We have become so competitive in this period of austerity that if the world economy picks up, then Ireland can take off like a rocket," said Mr Noonan. "We may have very strong growth rates in the next couple of years."

The minister, who is in Paris as part of a trade and investment mission to coincide with St Patrick's Day, added that Ireland's economy could see growth rates of 2% in 2013.

"If the world economy takes off you can add another two point something on it," he added.

He also pointed out that the nation's competitiveness level has risen 16% due to the Government's austerity policies. This, he said, will help ensure Ireland returns to the bond markets next year.

"Ireland is now Europe's best project for a programme country to return to the bond market, which is what we intend to do in 2012/2013," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Noonan refused to confirm whether the Troika - the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank - has agreed to restructure Ireland's promissory note repayment plan.

There has been speculation that the debt masters have been locked in negotiations either to reduce the amount Ireland has pledged to pay, or extend the timeframe to make its debt more manageable.

Mr Noonan, who met French finance minister Francois Baroin this week, said he was getting good support from his European counterparts.

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