DUBLIN, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Tuesday said his government is aiming to create more job opportunities in the coming years and halve the country's jobless rate by 2020.
The Irish government on Tuesday launched a medium-term economic strategy to set out economic growth until 2020. Under the strategy, Ireland's economic growth will reach 2 percent next year, 2.3 percent in 2015 and 2.8 percent in 2016.
The strategy predicted growth rates of above 3 percent from 2017.
The government document, named "A Strategy for Growth," said unemployment would not fall below 10 percent until 2018, adding that the jobless rate would stand at 8.1 percent in 2020.
The strategy said the government will be running a balanced budget in 2018 which would be the first year the government spends less then it takes in by way of taxes.
Kenny said the strategy was a "roadmap for the Irish economy," adding that by 2020, the government aimed to replace "all the jobs lost in the crisis and halve the rate of unemployment."
He also said next year would see a very strong push to make the economy more competitive. On the welfare reforms, the Irish prime minister said these reforms would be a big focus of 2014. He said 2014 would be a year for jobs and that everything that can be done would be done in the area.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said there was no question of "suddenly loosening the purse strings" simply because the government hit fiscal targets.
Gilmore said the credit for the bailout exit rested with the Irish people and that they should see some payback though that might not happen immediately.
The deputy prime minister said employment could grow over the next six years back to the level of the Celtic Tiger, but said that they would be real and sustainable jobs.
The Celtic Tiger referred to the Irish economy between 1995 and 2000, a period of rapid real economic growth fuelled by foreign direct investment, and a subsequent property price bubble which rendered the real economy uncompetitive.
The Irish economy expanded at an average rate of 9.4 percent between 1995 and 2000, and continued to grow at an average rate of 5.9 percent during the following decade until 2008, when it fell into recession.
He added that Ireland would have to develop trading links with new economies and would need to diversify its export base.
The center of gravity in world trade is "shifting to the east," he said, adding that Ireland had to build its relationships in these places.
On Sunday, Ireland wrapped up a three-year bailout in a landmark for the eurozone's efforts to resolve its debt crisis, becoming the first country in the eurozone to officially exit its international financial rescue program.
Ireland was forced to turn to the EU and the IMF for the 85-billion euro (116 billion U.S. dollars) bailout in late 2010 after its banks collapsed and its property market bubble burst.