By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – The Celtic Tiger is continuing to roar, according to the latest figures, which show that gross national product grew by 7.7 percent last year – the fourth successive record year in a row. The GNP has grown 33.5 percent in that time.
Ireland remains the fastest-growing economy in the EU and is set to double in size every 12 years if growth of this magnitude continued.
National income per head is now over _12,000 and some economists predict that growth this year could be even more dramatic – fed by very strong exports, which were up 17 percent.
Employees’ pay increased by 10.2 percent and incomes of the self-employed, company profits and rents went up by 12.8 percent, according to the Central Statistics Office figures.
Consumer spending was also up 7.3 percent on the 1996 figure and the value of stocks rose by _539 million.
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Investment in new buildings and capital equipment rose by 18.8 percent in money terms, which is the equivalent if 10.9 percent in real terms.
Exports of goods and services exceeded imports by _6.4 billion compared to _5 billion in 1996 but this was partly offset by an increase in net factor income outflows to the rest of the world which increased by _1.2 billion.