Ireland now has one of the lowest levels of national debt in the European Union.

A new report from the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) reveals that Ireland has one of the lowest levels of national debt in the EU. The debt now stands at €36.5 billion, €3.3 billion less than last year. The debt/GDP ratio is also down by 11 percentage points at 39 per cent, the second lowest in the EU. In addition, interest costs on the debt were €271 million below the budget estimate.

These figures are very good but they are to some extent historical.

Michael Somers, Chief Executive of the NTMA, is confident that the national debt will continue to fall and believes that allowing for the recent slowdown in economic activity, a further €2 billion could be cut off the debt.

Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy says that while this news is welcome, it will have little bearing on the budget for this year.

The NTMA will also be managing the National Pension Reserve Fund which will total almost €8 billion by the end of the year. However, most of this will be invested overseas.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 19 July 2001. The reporter is Ingrid Miley.