The European Commission forecasts that Ireland will continue to have the best performing economy in Europe.

Earlier this year when the European Commission published its spring forecast, Ireland was shown to have the best performing economy in Europe. Today, the autumn forecast extended this prediction until 1998 showing the economy in an even more positive light.

The Irish economy grew last year by 10 per cent but the rate of growth is predicted to slow down over the next two years. However, the level of growth of the Irish economy will remain at least double the EU average. It is also predicted that unemployment in Ireland will fall to within one point of the EU average by 1998.

Ireland will continue to create new jobs faster than any EU member state.

Inflation in Ireland is expected to stay at or just below the EU average up to 1997.

Perhaps the most significant statistic of all is that by next year, Ireland's level of debt will be below the EU average. If this proves true, the Irish national debt will effectively be halved during the period 1986 to 1998.

Commenting on the commission's forecasts, Peter Brennan of IBEC says that the good news is that Ireland is outperforming the rest of Europe when it comes to economic growth forecasts and the downward trend in unemployment is very encouraging. However, he says that the increase in public expenditure is not good news. He also points out that Ireland is now way over the eligibility for EU structural funds transfers.

Whoever wins the next general election will have charge of one of the most buoyant economies in Europe.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 6 November 1996. The reporter is Tommie Gorman.