Sutherland condemns 'apocalyptic' economic outlook
Peter Sutherland, the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, told an audience of Irish business people in Dublin yesterday that "a sense of virtual apocalypse" evident in Ireland today is "excessive and debilitating".
The former EU Commissioner lashed out at commentators who, he said, portrayed everything and everyone in the most negative light.
"The focus of many commentators' analysis seems to be on past mistakes rather than looking at options for the future," he said.
In strong language, Mr Sutherland condemned commentary that, he said, overemphasised Ireland's problems and underplayed our strengths.
"Our history is replete with examples of our willingness to place our personal desire to wound and undermine above the national interest," he said.
He was not denying the need for legitimate criticism but was pleading for constructive engagement, he said.
Mr Sutherland was addressing an audience of 250 business people as keynote speaker at the 'Winning Through Change' conference in Dublin.
He said the Irish economy was showing evidence of a resilient response to the economic crisis. But unduly negative coverage of the situation was causing a lack of confidence and making the economic situation worse. "It has reduced investment and consumption owing to increased saving. I do not believe that the extent of this negativism is justified but it carries the real risk of exacerbating our condition through its effects at home and abroad," he said.
In a concerted effort to highlight the positives of the Irish case, Mr Sutherland told the audience that tax returns were showing a positive momentum and the deficit for 2010 looked set to be lower than predicted just months ago -- at 11.5pc rather than 11.9pc.
He said Ireland was in a better position economically than Greece, Portugal and Spain who were running up large deficits while Ireland's current account balance had moved into surplus. Those countries were suffering an economic crisis while Ireland was suffering from a banking crisis that was feeding an economic crisis, he said.
"Financial markets for now at least continue to focus on Ireland's banking woes, and have not given much credit for the progress made on the economic front. But this does not diminish the fact that progress is very real," he said.
Other speakers at the conference followed Mr Sutherland in focusing on the positives.
Ulster Bank's chief economist Simon Barry told business people that the global economy was already in recovery. He said that prices had fallen in Ireland for two years while inflation elsewhere was driving up costs for our competitors.