The Central Bank has predicted that the economy will grow at a rate of about 5.5% this year, which is only slightly slower than the growth recorded for last year.

The bank said that growth will be driven by strong consumer expenditure on the back of the encashment of SSIA savings accounts.

The forecast is for about 71,000 net new jobs to be created in the economy.

However, the bank has warned that inflation is an increasing risk to our export competitiveness.

It said that price levels in Ireland are already the highest in the Eurozone and that any further inflation above these levels will put further pressure on the country's competitiveness.

The bank also said that private sector borrowing in Ireland is now the highest in the Eurozone when measured against its economic output.

It said that on average personal credit now amounts to typically one and a half times personal disposable income.

Martin denies loss of Irish competitiveness

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Micheál Martin, has denied that the Irish economy is losing competitiveness.

He was responding to the news that 350 jobs may be under threat at the Motorola manufacturing plant in Cork.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland, Mr Martin said however that vigilance was needed in order to maintain competitiveness with other economies.

He said that the rate of productivity growth over the last decade in Ireland was quite significant relative to any other EU economy, but that it has slowed.

'The rate has slowed, and particularly in the domestic economy, and all of the analysis in recent times has shown that we need to become more competitive in the domestic economy in particular and that's why we've taken certain decisions in that regard,' he said.