Sunday 18 February 2018

New Google boss warns against 'mad' spending binge ahead of election

The prospect 'frightens me a little bit' says Harris

EXPORT HUB: Google VP Ronan Harris outlines his vision
EXPORT HUB: Google VP Ronan Harris outlines his vision
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

New Google Ireland boss Ronan Harris has warned against a "mad" spending binge ahead of next year's General Election.

In his first interview since taking the job, the head of Ireland's most high-profile tech multinational warned that Ireland could be damaged by spending hikes.

"There's going to be mad stuff happening and it frightens me a little bit. If we find ourselves in a couple of years with our cost base having gotten out of control, it makes my job of going out and winning more growth opportunities for Ireland more difficult," he told the Sunday Independent.

"I want to make sure that when we look at our competitiveness matrix that Ireland stays at the top of that."

Last week it was reported that the Government is set to spend up to €300m to give 300,000 public sector workers an estimated €800 per year pay rise. As the economy grows strongly, the Government is considering cutting taxes and hiking spending and wages.

The new Google head, who employs 5,000 staff and contractors, said that high levels of personal tax are an issue.

"On a personal level as an employee in Ireland, I pay a lot of tax," he says. "I know that it is higher than in other locations in Europe and that is an issue. I think keeping Ireland competitive in terms of personal tax and costs is a really important thing that we need to keep our eye on.

"But I think we are not out of the woods yet, so we can't be flaithulach in terms of spending or driving up costs or slashing tax rates. We've got to be very careful that we remain competitive on both fronts."

In a wide-ranging interview, the 43-year-old Lucan- born executive outlined his plans to grow Google's operation in Dublin by focusing on the development of new products and services for the online search and advertising behemoth. "One of the topics that is important to us and to Ireland over the next couple of years is innovation," he says. "I think one of the biggest focus areas for me will be to build out more of that," he adds.

Google, which is the biggest acquirer of start-ups in Europe, recently bought Irish sound technology firm Thrive. It bought video tech firm Green Parrot Pictures in 2011.

Boosted by the success of its Export hub - which enables small businesses to find new markets and monetise them - Google Ireland is now investing heavily in creating a new App hub in the Dublin campus, which will help mobile games developers build out new games and find new customers by creating a "one- stop shop".

"Gaming would probably be one of the biggest sectors. You develop a game. How do you scale it? How do you monetise it and make income off it?" he says.

"We provide that in a one-stop shop. We are seeing a rapidly accelerating stream of some of Europe's best app developers coming through Dublin to get access to that expertise."

The new Google initiative launched at the start of this year has proved highly successful, with Harris indicating that it will expand.

"Dublin has the opportunity to become the Lourdes of the 21st century with business owners coming here on a digital pilgrimage. They come to Dublin and spend time with the likes of Google to learn the latest and the greatest and then they take it back to their own country and create jobs. But this is where the expertise lies," he says.

Sunday Indo Business

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