| 10.9°C Dublin

Ireland's top 'wild geese' say deal with the debt

W ITH the debt mountain forecast to hit as much as €250bn, there's not a snowball's chance of repaying it. But can we default, or is there another way to alleviate the crippling debt burden? We asked some of the most successful Irish businessmen working abroad to use their international experiences and give their views on what should be done.

Gerry Robinson

Former business troubleshooter on the BBC and ex-CEO of Granada TV

"All unsubordinated bondholders should be cut, but we have to honour guaranteed bank debt so as not to harm our future borrowing capacity. There is no silver bullet. We can't tax our way out of this mess, otherwise talented workers will go elsewhere and we'll reduce the tax base at a certain point.

"Property ran amok and that definitely has to be prevented from happening again.

"We need to balance the books intelligently, although if you took an axe to most of the civil service, it would probably have no impact on the country's capacity to grow. It might even free it up.

"Most wealth is created steadily, as you see with German Mittelstand, often family-owned SMEs. They're sensibly and solidly run and they read the market correctly. We need more Irish businesses like that."

Paul O'Sullivan

CEO, Optus Australia

"We definitely need to look for a better deal on our debt, because at the moment it doesn't look like we've got a very good one.

"If that involves restructuring, it's important to note that this will only be a part of Ireland's recovery.

"We also need to creatively renew our focus on growing exporting industries, a strategy that has been successful for the past 20 years, so that we're in a better position to pay for whatever better deal we can get by playing to our strengths in technology, food and pharmaceuticals.

"Ireland is in an excellent position to benefit from the growth in mobile technologies, communications, broadband internet and associated services and we should do more to leverage that."

Aidan Heavey

CEO, Tullow Oil

"We shouldn't default. Why should we ask someone else to pay for our mistakes? When you borrow money you should be satisfied that you have the capacity to pay it back, but restructuring the debt might work as part of a proper business plan for the country.

"We need a Recovery Tsar with the authority to put a proper plan in place and then manage it. Like any business, Ireland needs a low cost base and better income.

We need to dramatically cut the non-productive side of the economy and increase the productive side.

"There are two types of people: those who see the issues and are prepared to do something about it, take the pain and do the work. And those who talk about who's to blame for their current problems. Ireland needs a well-managed motivated team with a clear vision."

Dr Pearse Lyons

Founder, Alltech

"If we default, we risk making ourselves a pariah of the global economy and we'd further damage our international reputation.

"Lenders should share some responsibility for the money they lent the banks. We should purposefully restructure our debt and stretch it out as far as possible, then prove the economic progress this has enabled us to make in the first year.

"I'm sensing austerity for austerity's sake, but Ireland needs leaders, not managers, making sensible cuts that are value-driven, that don't increase costs or liabilities somewhere else.

"To grow the economy, we should focus on selling Ireland, for tourism, food, farming, sporting prowess and its young population. We also need more young people looking for new ideas and starting export-driven businesses."

Dr George Moore

CEO, TargusInfo

"Everyone expects us to restructure it, so let's do it, but bondholders will have to share in this and take a hit. This will require hard-nosed negotiation and more courage than we've seen from the ECB, IMF and EU so far.

"Some people want to punish smaller countries like Ireland, but you cannot punish a whole country. We simply don't have the resources in our economy to live up to our obligations.

"We have to reduce the size of the broad public sector, because it's a simple affordability issue. Places like Detroit in the US rust belt are in more severe trouble than Ireland at the moment."

John Hartnett

Founder, Irish Technology Capital and former VP of Global Markets, Palm Inc.

"I don't fully understand the consequences of us defaulting, but I think we'll be forced to do so. Restructuring the debt might help in the short term, but it won't be enough.

"We should be making cuts more precisely, taking out duplication of functions in county councils and State agencies and eliminating waste while not touching health and investing more in education.

"Our ability to create multibillion-dollar businesses is key to getting out of this. This is farming, not hunting, so we won't have instant success.

"Look at Israel. It has 130 Nasdaq-listed companies in technology and defence, while we have perhaps three or four. We need many more."

Sunday Indo Business