Wednesday 13 December 2017

Taoiseach tells Davos 'Ireland's recovery is a model for others'

Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Joseph Stiglitz. Photo: Reuters/Vincent Kessler
Bono attends the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland yesterday. Photo: Bloomberg with Niamh Scanlon in a photo the popstar posted on Twitter

Donal O'Donovan in Davos

Enda Kenny was forced to deny trying to "bribe" the public with tax breaks ahead of the General Election as he hammered home the message that "Ireland is open for business" in Davos.

The Taoiseach's main formal function at the annual conference of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss town was a panel discussion on "rebooting global growth".

Mr Kenny told a packed hall, open to locals as well as delegates attending the WEF conference, that Ireland's recovery is a model that other hard-hit countries can follow.

"Just five years ago we were under the hammer of the Troika, now we are in a very different place," he told the audience, which included local schoolchildren and Belgium's King Phillipe.

The Irish recovery required winning popular support for measures including the Fiscal Compact Treaty Referendum, the kind of hard option regarded by many as politically impossible, he said.

"As a small country we have demonstrated that working with people you can get out of that," the Taoiseach said.

Growth in the economy needed to be revived before other issues such as whether spending should focus on providing services or investing in infrastructure, he added.

On the same panel, Nobel economics prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz - known for his rejection of strict austerity policies - said the effects of austerity on Ireland had been severe. "I wouldn't call it victory yet," he said.

Mr Stiglitz said Ireland was looking at a lost decade - 2008 to 2018. "[But] among the countries that had austerity, you did the best," he said.

"We're not declaring victory, we're reporting progress," the Taoiseach responded.

As the economic mood darkens globally, he insisted that Ireland is now better insulated against economic risks, with a long-term economic plan that keeps increases in public spending below the wider rate of growth.

During the session, Mr Kenny cited Coder Dojo and the Young Scientist award as evidence of Ireland's go-ahead educational culture. In a generally downbeat atmosphere at Davos this year, Coder Dojo, the Irish-founded network of computer programming clubs that teaches children in informal settings, has been something of a hit.


Pop star told his more than 13 million followers on Twitter: "Look who I met at Davos...@niamhscanlonirl...the amazing 13-year-old that made a supercool app... #coderdojo."

Niamh Scanlon, the Irish teenager who won this year's European Digital Girl of the Year award, posted a picture of the former Black Eyed Peas star visiting her and others manning a pop-up branch of Coder Dojo on the main shopping street in Davos.

Scanlon's pop-up shop sits next to shopfronts taken over by the likes of Infosys and Aberdeen Asset Management.

Coder Dojo Davos is supported by Salesforce and Thomson Reuters and has been popular with local schoolchildren as well as world leaders in town for the conference.

In a sign that the Irish message of an end to boom and bust is not being heard abroad, the Taoiseach had to deny that tax cuts in October's Budget were a bribe to voters during an interview with US broadcaster CBNC.

"There are no tax bribes here," the Taoiseach said.

Billed as a summit to help improve the world, this year's Davos event was overshadowed by the dramatic collapse in global oil markets and fears about the slowdown in China.

Irish Independent

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