I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 77 together.
The introduction of any new State-supported savings measures would normally be considered as part of the annual budgetary and finance Bill processes.
Given that precautionary saving is likely to have increased as a result of the pandemic, the need for the State to encourage further saving or introduce any State-backed investment scheme is not clearly established at this time. Regarding the existing State savings offering, the NTMA, through State savings projects, offers a wide range of tax-free savings products to the public, including prize bonds and fixed-rate savings bonds and certificates. Both short-term and long-term fixed-rate products are offered, with maturities from three to ten years.
The low level of return from normal savings vehicles is a product of the low interest rate environment generally. As such, interest rates on offer via State savings products are competitive and provide good value for their holders. The return rewards savers who hold products to maturity. Early redemption is possible, although at the loss of most, if not all, of the return. There has been an increase in the purchase of State savings products in the past 12 months. This growth in deposits is consistent across the financial services sector in Ireland. State savings balances at the end of October 2019 were €21.1 billion, while the end-October 2020 balances totalled €22.4 billion. In the intervening 12-month period, therefore, customer inflows were approximately €1.3 billion. This increase comprised changes in the deposit account of €400 million, prize bonds of €400 million and other products, including national solidarity bonds, savings certificates and savings bonds of €500 million.
These data confirm that there has been an increase in savings going into State-backed products. That is really welcome. The NTMA and I keep under review the suitability of products, which includes looking at how they are performing. The increase in savings we have seen via the products that are currently available shows their attractiveness. That attractiveness is enhanced in the context of very low interest rates across a whole variety of products.