Prime Minister Enda Kenny rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange today in the latest leg of his U.S. tour today. He was attending a special investment conference hosted by the New York Stock Exchange.
The second Irish Day at the New York Stock Exchange brought a significant contingent of businessmen and women from Ireland as well as a decent sprinkling of American corporate executives. It was about networking and meeting others who have invested in Ireland.
It’s sometimes said that everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. But this St. Patrick’s Day the Irish economy wouldn’t turn anyone green with envy. Unemployment is near 15%, emigration is rising and taxes have gone up as the government in Dublin attempts to live under the austerity the EU and IMF demanded in exchange for a 2010 bailout of its banks.
Ireland’s only way out of this trap is to grow its way back to prosperity. Whether it succeeds greatly interests America, Britain and the other peripheral euro-zone countries, all of whom have suffered their own ruinous credit booms and busts.
Last Friday, Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection and Deputy Leader of the Irish Labour Party was visiting New York to help celebrate the most globally popular Irish holiday and spoke about the positive change in the Irish economy.
“Ireland is back, and investing now in Ireland would be a very timely idea, and should definitely produce rewards over the long run,” says Minister Burton, who was the Finance spokesperson for the Labour Party up to 2011. A trained CPA, the minister worked for PriceWaterhouse in Dublin before starting her electoral political career. She was elected to the Irish Parliament a number of times before her appointment to the Cabinet.
She attests with confidence that economic conditions in the country are already starting to improve, with new orders for Ireland’s goods and business activity beginning to noticeably increase. Minister Burton also points to “Ireland’s enduring attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment, underpinned by our 12.5% corporate tax rate.” While it may be premature to claim that Ireland has been reborn, early indications suggest the country is on the road to economic recovery, says Burton.
As in any type of investing, the largest returns are usually realized by those who step up before all of the stars have aligned. So Burton strongly suggests that U.S. investors as well as American companies should put some of their investment money in Ireland for the simple reason that “we are confident that our mandate to implement measures for reform and recovery will succeed.”
Information technology, education, healthcare, and real estate are among the sectors of the economy representing the best investment opportunities right now in Ireland, says the Minister. At the same time, she is also encouraged by the increased interest in the areas of financial services, digital media, gaming, and pharmaceuticals, as the government has adopted measures to boost these industries.
“Now is the time to invest in Ireland, where property is a steal,” said Bill Clinton recently while in New York. “You’ve (Ireland) got the best educated workforce in the world,” he noted. Burton says President Obama, Bill Clinton and others who have expressed support for investing in Ireland are aware of the improving economic scenario in the country, even as virtually the rest of Europe is mired in multifold problems and economic stagnation. Ireland has appealed to a group of investors pulled together by the William J. Clinton Foundation to consider the opportunities in Ireland.
“We definitely are turning the corner,” says Minister Burton, with the country and its government exceeding their targets for a faster and well-rounded economic recovery, she adds.
And here at home on the island
Maeve Dineen writing in the Irish Independent recently nailed the mood of Ireland Day on Wall Street saying: “In contrast with the doom and gloom at home, the event portrayed Ireland as a country that is full of confidence that will rise again having experienced much tougher times in the past.”
The happening proved to be a huge draw with over 350 executives from America’s most prominent companies and venture capitalists in attendance. “More than anything,” says Dineen, “this American audience needed to be told that our corporation tax rate of 12.5pc is safe.
“They really couldn’t care less whether we default on our loans, cut public sector wages in half or abolish Irish after the Junior Certificate. What they want is a stable tax regime, well-educated English-speaking workers, decent schools and hospitals and well-developed transport links with the rest of Europe. Funnily enough, that’s what most ordinary citizens want as well.”