Clinton tells tycoons: You'd be nuts not to invest in Ireland
Published 10/02/2012 | 05:00
FORMER US President Bill Clinton last night gave a ringing endorsement to our economy by urging some of the world's biggest investors to pump their money into it.
He told a star-studded cast of US corporate chieftains -- with trillions of dollars at their disposal to invest -- they would be "nuts" not to seize the opportunity.
Among those listening were influential figures like:
- Henry Kravis and Richard Roberts, co-chief executives of the investment firm Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts.
- Rich Ross, chairman of Walt Disney Studios.
- A senior executive from the world's most successful investment fund, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.
- Wilbur Ross, whose $1.5bn (€1.12bn) investment in Bank of Ireland is already showing a huge profit.
Mr Clinton admitted there were huge challenges ahead, but believed the Irish economy could bounce back.
But it needed a boost from US investment, he told told the special meeting of investors and Irish American business leaders in New York.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the response had been exceptionally positive.
Mr Clinton's extraordinarily robust comments were made as the creation of around 500 IDA-backed highly-skilled jobs were announced yesterday in Galway, Leixlip, Sligo and Cork
"Irish America is well placed to help Ireland beat the law of averages," he said.
"You'd have to be nuts not to take advantage of the unique investment opportunity presented by one of the most business-friendly countries in the world, with the youngest, best-educated workforce in Europe and an unemployment pool of 14pc.
"The Irish Government will do its job on the public finances, but others must step up to the plate to help on the jobs front," he added.
Some of the potential investors had been taken aback to hear how young people comprise such a high proportion of our population.
With trillions of dollars available for investment in US banks and corporates alone, "demographics will play a key role in investment decisions" the former president added.
"If you think the US economy and the global economy will recover, Ireland is the place to invest. It is the only sophisticated economy in Europe with an average age lower than that of the US."
Mr Kenny said our economy was more competitive now, with wages lower and labour more plentiful.
The Taoiseach also confirmed that the State would take on part of the risk of lending to small businesses because banks, re-capitalised by taxpayers, were not providing credit.
His remarks were seen as confirmation that a credit guarantee scheme for small firms will be contained in jobs initiative due to be unveiled by Enterprise minister Richard Bruton on Monday.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said there had been pressure on Ireland's corporate tax regime but he believed it was now understood in Europe that the corporation tax regime was here to stay.
At a separate meeting earlier, Mr Kenny said we would stand by our low corporation tax. But he warned that the Government's freedom of action was severely limited by the state of the public finances.
"Dealing with the troika (EU/IMF/ECB) is like saying in your own house that you want to do such and such, and somebody in the corner says: 'You can't do that; you haven't got the money.'
"For the first time, we don't have our own sovereignty and independence. We won't get them back until we restore the public finances.
"By 2016, the centenary of the Rising, we intend that Ireland will be the best small country in the world to do business," Mr Kenny said.
He told Bloomberg TV in New York that Ireland would not seek any debt write-down, but was hoping to cut the cost of the debt.
"We made it very clear that Ireland has not sought, and will not seek, any write-down. We pay our dues in full and on time.
"We could ease that burden somewhat by having the facilities that are now available under the EFSF and the ESM, that were not available when Ireland borrowed a very substantial amount of money for bank recapitalisation.
"I can't answer you right now as to what facilities the ECB may give there, but I'm sure that's a matter that we will reflect on very seriously given the fact that Ireland is paying its way and is making real progress."
He hoped the political agreement in Greece would allow Europe to concentrate on the development of the single market and the emphasis on growth, which Ireland had insisted be on the agenda of every EU summit from now on.