Putting our best foot forward
Excitement is mounting over visits by Queen Elizabeth and President Obama, but Ireland needs to deal with our inflated costs to satisfy our other visitor - the IMF
20 May 2011
What a month! Both President Obama and Queen Elizabeth are due to grace our green shores all in the space of ten days. There hasn’t been this much excitement since the Pope popped over in 1979.
Watching the preparations for these two state visits has been truly fascinating. Having the misfortune of living in the vicinity of one of the venues that the Queen is to visit means I have been privy to the extent of the preparations. I have watched as scores of workers power-hose, scrub and polish the exterior of one of our nation’s landmarks; been subject to mild interrogation by gardaí on my doorstep; stepped over numerous man holes that have been painted with yellow crosses to indicate it had been checked for suspicious devices; been slightly spooked by the sheer volume of police patrolling the neighbourhood and have been told I will have to endure annoying parking restrictions which mean taking the dreaded public transport to work. I’ve never seen such a fuss in all my life.
While part of me finds this really irritating that we are falling over ourselves to have everything just right for the neighbour who has up to now barely bothered to give us a civil nod, another part of me feels really proud that we are clued in enough to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to build bridges with our nearest nation and endeavor to bury the proverbial hatchet because let’s face it, we need all the pals we can get right now.
If Ireland is shown is a positive light over these two visits it will give us some much needed credibility across the rest of the world when all eyes will be on us.
Hopefully it will remind people to come and visit our beautiful shores, buy our food and drink and maybe even take advantage of our low corporation tax and establish new business here. This is the best chance we have ever had as a country to show the world what we have to offer so lets hope that no one does anything to jeopardize this priceless opportunity.
Of course we have had a few other less formal and less exciting visits in recent months too. The EU and IMF are coming over every quarter to survey our progress and are keeping a very close eye on how we are managing our affairs. In an interview conducted with Retail Ireland director, Torlach Denihan, (p 22) he tells us how in meetings with the IMF, it transpires that they are very keen to see us get our cost base in line with other countries. It is no secret that our rates of pay are ridiculously inflated for a country in the midst of a painful recession. The Joint Labour Committee pay rates have no place in Irish business today. Our social welfare rates are also much higher than other EU member states with a much healthier economy than ours.
Until we manage to deal with our inflated costs, we have little hope of growing small business in this country.
If we don’t wise up, our visitors are going to get less friendly with each visit.