Following three successive years in which output fell, positive growth returned to the Irish economy last year. The recovery is expected to continue this year, and to both broaden and gain ground in 2013. Over the medium term, a return to robust and more sustainable growth is foreseen. While exports are expected to continue supporting economic activity, a gradual pick-up in domestic demand is also projected as the recovery broadens further and spills over to the labour market. We have also seen that 2011 marked a record year for inward Foreign Direct Investment and the pipeline remains strong. All of this points to the fact that many of the underlying strengths of our economy remain, including a well-educated workforce, favourable demographics, an open and flexible economy and a pro-enterprise environment. Of course there are many challenges which we still face and it will take time to work through the legacies of the crisis. Not least of these is the high level of Government debt which we have accumulated. Substantial corrective action has been taken to return stability to the public finances and we are on track to bring the deficit below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015, in line with the targets set.
As the Deputy is aware, the banking system restructuring plan creates capacity for the two Pillar Banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB, to provide lending in excess of €30 billion in the period 2011-2013. SME and new mortgage lending for these banks is expected to be in the range of €16-20 billion over this period. This lending capacity is incorporated into the banks' deleveraging plans which allow for repayment of Central Bank funding through asset run-off and disposals over the period.
The Government has imposed lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Both banks were required to sanction lending of at least €3 billion in 2011, €3.5 billion this year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs. Both banks achieved their 2011 targets. The pillar banks are required to submit their lending plans to the Department and the Credit Review Office (CRO) at the beginning of each year, outlining how they intend to achieve their lending targets. The banks also meet with the Department and the CRO on a quarterly basis to discuss progress. The banks provide my Department and the CRO with monthly returns outlining their SME lending figures, broken down at a sectoral and regional level. The monthly management meetings with the pillar banks also provide a forum for the issue of SME lending to be raised by my Department.