Belfast Telegraph

Irish economy 'will be back in business'

By Mark Keenan

Economic strategist Kevin Gardiner, who originally coined the term 'the Celtic Tiger', has claimed the worst is over for the Republic and that Irish households should "start to feel the benefit within around a year or so".

Mr Gardiner was in Dublin in his capacity as global investment strategist for Barclays and was speaking at a conference on the opportunities for Irish trade with Russia.

"When I came up with the term 'Celtic Tiger' working for Morgan Stanley in 1994, I wasn't talking about house prices, I was talking about the factors that were already starting to create strong inward investment for Ireland, namely a very flexible and well-educated and English-speaking workforce," he said.

"There is, of course, the corporate tax factor, but the fact that Ireland is now inside the single currency and Britain is not, is a massive advantage for Ireland. Eighteen years later and most of these fundamental qualities that enabled Ireland to attract so much foreign direct investment are still in place.

"This is why American investment will continue to spill into this country and why I'm optimistic about Ireland's future overall."

Mr Gardiner was in Ireland to speak at the inaugural EU-Asia Top Economist Round Table in Dublin, which was hosted by Asia Matters, the Dublin-based organisation established earlier this year to further Ireland's position in EU-Asia relations.

Speaking from his paper Expansion Opportunities for EU in Asia Mr Gardiner pointed out that Ireland needed to dispose of some commonly held myths in order to profit from Asia's expansion.

"Competitiveness is not driven by costs and prices alone, so if Ireland sticks to what it is good at and sells its unique goods and services - that is, consumer lifestyle products, international services in finance, entertainment and education - then anything is possible," he said.

He noted that Glen Dimplex, represented by fellow speaker Sean O'Driscoll, successfully sold electrical products into Asia. "That says it all, really."

Other speakers at the conference included Mr Yosuke Kawakami of the Japanese Ministry for Financial Affairs, based in London, who pointed out that while Ireland had proven to be "an A student of the troika programme", Europe as a whole would need to recover on its own and prove itself as the "shining pillar" of European integration it aspired to be.

However, he pointed out that Europe must also realise that the tables had now turned between it and Asia - that now it was Europe's turn to look to Asia for its lead.

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