ountries who want to break out of endemic poverty to provide employment and a better lifestyle for their people need to add value to whatever they are exporting, and they have to be able to attract international investment capital.
Mr. David O’Donovan is an experienced development consultant who spent 30 years with the Government of Ireland Federal Development Instutite, the institution credted with moving Ireland from poverty to one of the world’s leading development economies.
Mr. O’Donovan came to Belize (his 3rd visit) at the invitation of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry to tell Belize businessmen about the Irish experience. His visit was funded by the Ministry of Economic Development.
Fifty years ago Ireland was a poor country with no natural resources to speak of. Her people were poor and not well trained. Since the turn of th 20th century, Ireland had experienced two famines, and her young menand women were leaving for greener pastures at a pace which her natural birth rate could not sustain.
The domestic situation became so desperate and the public clamor became so great that the politicians of all shades decided to submerge their political differences and come together for the common good.
They created development institutions that were free from political influence and reflected only the interests of the private sector, and the labour unions.
As the reform measures beganto take effect, good things began to happen. Ireland’s first job was to add value to its exports by adding more processing to whatever it was able to sell.
Later the country began to attract international investors with a concentrated campaign of low taxes and a no-nonsense policy of actively assisting businesses to get started. Ireland became so good at this that it was repeatdly voted the most friendly investment climate. Serious-minded businessmen could come to Ireland and set up a working corporation in less than two weeks.
The success story does not mean that Ireland didn’t make mistakes, or that people saw eye-to-eye on all development matters.
There were lots of spats, but the players worked things out through dialogue and sometimes compromise.
The important things to remember about the Irish experience is that Ireland was in a much worse economic position than Belize. The chasm between political parties was much deeper and more profound thn it is in Belize. In fighting for foreign investment Ireland had to compete with Britain andEurope and the giants of the Far East.
One of the most important accomplishments in Ireland has been her revamping of education to provide the skilled manpower that new investors were clamouring for. Local ndustry was treated on the same footing as foreign industry, and it had to compete with the imported industryn if it wanted to survive.
Gradually, bit by bit, Ireland was able to pull itself up from its bootstraps.
Today Ireland specializes in high-end exports for the computer and health industries and its highly skilled population allows her to compete with others who are doing the same.
Ireland has been hit hard by the world-wide recession, but she is recovering, and she has retained herposition as one of the world’s most firnedly investment climates.