Plans to create 300,000 jobs over the next five years were today dismissed as reheated targets already published by state agencies.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen claimed the massive employment boost was a realistic goal on the Government’s new pathway to growth strategy.
Under the proposals, a Foreign Trade Council will be set up to coordinate trade missions around the world, particularly to the likes of China, India, Brazil and Russia.
These so-called emerging economies, which are growing wealthier much faster than other countries, are seen as key to boosting Irish business through stronger trade links.
The Middle East and Africa will also be targeted in the attempt to increase homegrown Irish exports by a third by 2015.
“The United States, Britain and Europe will remain key trading partners but we must seize the huge extra opportunities offered by other, newer markets,” said Mr Cowen.
The Taoiseach singled out food, tourism, electronics, construction, engineering, financial services and software as industries in Ireland ripe for more business abroad.
The plan aims to:
:: Directly create more than 150,000 jobs, which would indirectly create another 150,000.
:: Boost visitor numbers to Ireland to eight million, creating up to 15,000 jobs.
:: Attract an extra 780 foreign-investment projects into the country through the IDA.
Mr Cowen said the plan would involve more high-level trade missions overseas while Irish ambassadors abroad would take a more hands-on approach to drumming up business.
At home, the education system will be tweaked to focus more on languages, culture and the history of emerging nations, he added.
But the ambitious strategy was rubbished by Fine Gael’s enterprise and jobs spokesman as reheated policies that already exist in plans by Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Tourism Ireland.
“It’s another glitzy launch,” he said.
“It’s simply about reheating and repackaging existing targets – there’s no new policies, no new programmes, no new budgets.”
Mr Bruton said the Government needed to focus on getting credit flowing for businesses and fixing substandard infrastructure such as broadband and electricity.
Labour’s enterprise spokesman Willie Penrose said the plan was high on targets and short on specifics.
“The unemployed know that there have been impressive sounding plans and initiatives launched by this government in the past that have come to nothing,” he said.
“We now need to see some results flowing from these plans.”
Business leaders Ibec said they were disappointed there were no plans to include a private business representative on the Foreign Trade Council.
But Pat Ivory, the organisation’s head of international trade and transport policy, said there was huge potential for the plan and for companies to do more business internationally.
“The emerging markets of China, India and Latin America offer new opportunities, in addition to those provided by an enlarged EU and the Gulf region,” he said.
Mr Ivory said exports would help resurrect the economy.