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AmCham Praises Ireland's Record, But Warns Of Sterner Challenges

by Jason Gorringe,, London

07 February 2007

The recently-appointed President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland, Jim O'Hara, has said that Ireland should be justifiably proud of its economic achievements over the past two decades, but has cautioned that the country faces its most serious challenge yet as it seeks to maintain interest from foreign direct investors.

"Ireland is a politically stable, pro business, open economy with many attractions and we can be justifiably proud of our success. But we are continually moving up the cost league table and some of our traditional advantages have been eroded," said O'Hara, who is also General Manager of Intel Ireland.

According to O'Hara, there needs to be an increased focus and urgency with regard to addressing the weaknesses in Ireland's competitive armoury.

"While a higher cost base is in many ways a product of our economic success we have to adopt strategies that prevent our cost base rising at a pace that outstrips our productivity. Our future success will depend on our ability to compete in the global economy," he argued.

In addition to preserving Ireland's pro-business tax environment, O'Hara noted that other areas of key concern include post-primary education, research & development capability, and upgrading physical and digital infrastructure.

However, O'Hara said that the issues faced by Ireland are not the Government's alone.

"For example many of our multinational companies have been successful in driving increased productivity to offset our rising cost base and in adapting their business models to allow them to compete successfully in the changing environment. Therefore in seeking solutions, we need to engage all stakeholders including government agencies, academia, and both the multinational and indigenous business sectors", he observed.

There are currently over 600 US companies employing close to 100,000 people directly in Ireland with a further 225,000 indirect jobs supported by US companies. In 2006, US firms paid over EUR2.4 billion to the Irish exchequer in corporate tax, and contributed a further EUR13 billion in expenditure to the Irish economy in terms of payrolls, goods and services employed in their operation.

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