Finance Minister Michael Noonan has given an upbeat assessment of the Irish economy, saying that if the world economy rises Ireland's economy would "take off like a rocket."

This was because the austerity policies of the past three years had made the country "so competitive", he said.

Mr Noonan was speaking after ringing the bell to mark the opening of European stock markets at the Euronext/NYSE stock exchange in Paris.

The Minister for Finance predicted that Ireland would have real growth rates of 2% in 2013, but he added: "If the world economy takes off you can add another two point something on it."

Distinguishing "real" growth and "nominal" growth, he said: "The real growth, especially in SMEs is what drives the economy and what creates jobs, but the two go together."

Nominal growth is normally higher if inflation rises, because inflation increases the volume of tax receipts.

"Inflation has gone up a little bit, so it looks as if inflation is at 2%. I always look at how you put budgets together, so you start with your inflation rate and then you put on growth," he explained.

"Nominal growth is the driver of tax receipts and my primary job is to get the fiscal balance in place, so I'm working for nominal growth," Mr Noonan said.

Mr Noonan said that Ireland's competitiveness level had increased by 16% due to the effect of austerity policies, however painful these policies were.

In a speech to Euronext/NYSE Mr Noonan said Irish exports were "surging to record levels on the back of a significant bound in our national competitiveness."

"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."

According to the latest Troika forecast, the Irish economy will grow by 0.5% of GDP this year.

In its latest quarterly review in January, the Irish Central Bank has said that Ireland's competitiveness level continued to improve, but that it was partly explained by the decline of the euro against the currencies of our major trading partners. The report also cautioned that the decline in wages had slowed.