Inflation rate is a low two percent (2.7%). Ireland has chalked up a strong annual growth in Gross National Product and Gross Domestic Product.
The National Development Plans are giving the economy a boost. Ireland can be considered as a small, open, trade-dependent economy and is one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world. Its openness is reflected in the international mobility of capital and by encouraging levels of foreign direct investment. With low tax rates, Ireland presents a very attractive economic climate for international and local businesses.
In the field of international trade, the UK is the most important exporter to Ireland accounting for thirty-seven percent (37.1%) of all the Irish imports. The second biggest exported is the US at three percent (3.8%). The third exporter is Germany at nine percent (9.2%). Finally, the Netherlands accounts for more than four percent (4.5%.)
The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (CBFSAI) consists of two entities. The first entity is the Central Bank, which carries responsibility for the monetary policy functions, financial stability, economic analysis and currency, and payment systems. The second entity is the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, which has the mandate of safeguarding the financial sector and providing consumer protection. The CBFSAI has a supervisory responsibility for over 1000 financial entities in Ireland, of which more than 80 are banks and around 400 are credit unions.
The banking sector is a reliable contributor of the country's economic growth. The banking sector contributed six percent (6) to the Irish GNP in 2005 compared to three percent (3%) in 1998. Employment in banking has risen from 29,400 in 1998 to 37,700 in 2005, of which 82% represents retail banking. These retail banks have over a thousand branches and satellite offices.
TOP IRISH BANKS
The two major Irish banks, AIB Bank and Bank of Ireland, are both publicly listed companies. These companies have generated their capital through the Irish Stock Exchange. In each case, ownership is widely diversified, with over 100,000 shareholders, most of whom are private individuals with relatively small holdings. In the case of AIB Bank, 41 per cent of shareholders own fewer than 1,000 shares each, while in the case of Bank of Ireland this figure is 54 per cent. Taken as a whole, these small bank shareholders own only 1 per cent of the total bank shares.
Moreover, the Irish clients normally transact with the bank branches for retail banking services. They continue to be the predominant form of access to banking services. The growth of new suburbs and the emergence of suburban shopping malls has led to the opening of bank branches in or near these centres.
The top four banks in Ireland are Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, the National Irish Bank and Ulster Bank. Allied Irish Banks p.l.c. was formed in 1966 when three banks merged. The three banks had been established in 1825. The AIB's emphasis is on business banking in Britain in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the AIB formed a subsidiary, the FMB, which marked the