Export-led rescue rests on State slashing costs, says Naughton
THE cost of running the country must be drastically cut if our national efforts are to succeed, one of the country's top businessmen said yesterday.
Glen Dimplex boss Martin Naughton said Ireland's exporters had what it takes to lift the country out of its economic crisis, but Government spending must be cut.
"I don't mean just tinkering, but genuinely taking steps to reduce those huge costs so we can become examples again for the rest of the world in how we manage our affairs," he said.
It was "not unreasonable", given the calibre of our new breed of exporters, said Dr Naughton, to rely on their efforts to grow the economy out of trouble, despite recent predictions of shrinking demand for Irish goods in many key markets.
"Our up-and-coming export firms are simply incredible and able to achieve the required growth. When I first started out this wasn't just a different country, it was a different planet.
"There were no proper management systems here at all and foreign companies had to bring their own management with them. Today we have proven that we can manage the international operations of foreign multinationals from Ireland," he said
Dr Naughton was speaking at the Irish Exporters Association annual lunch, where he received the export gold medal for his achievement in building an indigenous company into an international global brand leader.
"I'd urge our firms to go beyond your local boundaries. We have a small, open economy -- way too small for businesses just to consider Ireland. From very early on we (Glen Dimplex) considered the UK our home market and decided that its population of 65 million was big enough for us. Now we export all over the world."
Glen Dimplex, which specialises in heating systems, has 26 factories across the world and almost 9,000 employees. One of its main markets is China. Dr Naughton said yesterday that he was not overly concerned by recent indicators that the Chinese economy was slowing down.
"I really don't know what's going on with China at the moment but it doesn't worry me overly at this point in time. We buy from China, we manufacture from China and we sell to China.
"To any country, China is a big threat but equally it's a big opportunity and I know that the Chinese love affair with Ireland isn't over."
Mark FitzGerald, president of the Irish Exporters Association, said that Dr Naughton was a "beacon of light in tough economic times" given that he founded the company in the oil crisis of 1973 and had expanded into the UK in 1977, the year that country had gone to the IMF for a national bailout.
Mr FitzGerald said that 2011 was a record year for Irish exporters with growth of 5pc leading to a €171bn total of goods and services exported.
Irish export growth slowed to 3.6pc in the first quarter of 2012.
Yet Mr FitzGerald said Ireland's exporters continued to break barriers -- while merchandise exports had stagnated at 0.1pc in the first three months of the year, service exports had experienced an 8pc increase in that same period.