Signs of green shoots in our fragile economy

There were four developments in Ireland last week that underscore the vitality of Irish business.

Each of them is indicative of the energy being deployed by business people and public servants to create opportunities for growth.

The Irish Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ inked an agreement to develop their capability to allow Irish companies jointly list on both stock exchanges.

This provides another option for equity capital raising by entrepreneurs and is targeted at technology and bio-science companies in particular. It is a further example of the innovation in financial services that continues to percolate around capital markets in Ireland.

The much publicised Web Summit drew a large number of attendees but it was the quality on contributors and the consequences of their presence that matters more. Having some of the leaders from Stripe, Spotify, Telsa and other leading names in the technology sector spend time in Dublin is proof positive that a world ranking eco-system is evolving in Irish IT that can propel another generation of growth in this fast-moving and dynamic industry.

The third notable event was a relatively low-profile visit by a certain Mr Maw from China. In a population of 1.3bn Mr Maw stands out as arguably the most important economic leader alongside the Chinese premier Mr Xi Jinping who spent time in Ireland in 2012.

It is nothing short of remarkable that these two powerful decisionmakers should opt to spend time in a Republic with 4 million citizens and it is testament to two things; (1) the sustained diplomatic efforts to showcase Ireland as a economy that matters for China, and; (2) the evident value of Ireland as a long term source of products and services that could help China’s development. It may take years for this to convert into hard economic value but the scale of opportunity makes the short-term investment worth it.

Finally, while all of this activity was under way inside the country an important grouping was touring the UAE and Saudi Arabia. An Irish agri-food contingent, backed by various State agencies, signed deals and announced acquisitions designed to connect Ireland’s equine and agri-food sectors with markets where demand is growing fast.

These activities are not reflective of an economy mired in endless negativity. Instead, they tell us that a cohort of people living in Ireland, across multiple sectors and active in both public and private enterprises, are out and about in search of opportunity.

Some of them will succeed, and hopefully will make a fortune that soars above the begrudgery that often attaches to wealth creation here. Some will fail, and will need the encouragement and support to go again.

This all adds up to a living, breathing economic organism that has survived a traumatic episode over the past five years and is cautiously stepping out of the recovery room.

Understandable nervousness is evident in any conversation I have about Ireland entering a new and better phase but hard facts around employment numbers, property, tax revenues and general economic activity suggest something is stirring, especially in the Greater Dublin region.

No one should get carried away with this momentum. We have too much debt, significant parts of our core infrastructure, particularly around health, need better efficiency and unemployment levels are too high.

The to-date recovery is also too narrowly compressed in the Dublin area.

Nonetheless economies, like life, start anew every day and a forward-thinking approach to developing new lines of business for Ireland is critical. That’s why last week was special.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody's Stockbrokers. His views are personal.


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