Cantillon: National or domestic . . . which is the focus
Time for Taoiseach to straighten thoughts on the economy
“My message to you is that if you want to do business in or with Ireland, as Taoiseach my door is always open to you,” Enda Kenny told the the US Chamber of Commerce. Photograph: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images
As Taoiseach Enda Kenny returns home, invigorated by his high-profile St Patrick’s Day visit to the US, he might take time to straighten out his thoughts on the economy.
Scarcely had the Taoiseach landed in Washington than fourth-quarter figures emerged, painting a distinctly unflattering picture of the state of the Irish economy towards the close of last year.
On a GDP basis, including the value of the output of the multinational sector, Ireland’s economy shrank by 2.3 per cent in the final three months of last year, dragging the full-year figure into the red, marking an overall contraction of 0.3 per cent.
However, GNP, which is considered a more accurate indicator of the indigenous economy, pointed to growth of 3.4 per cent – ahead of even the most optimistic projections.
Asked about the figures in Washington, where he was ostensibly drumming up business for Ireland, the Taoiseach could not resist the temptation to play up the good news.
Saying the Government’s priority for 2014 was on the domestic economy, he said its “focus now for the remainder of 2014 [is] on jobs and our indigenous economy”.
Clearly, keeping the GNP figures rosy is the target then.
Yet, within minutes Mr Kenny was back on (official Patrick’s Day tour) message, pointing to the ministerial diaspora as an indication of the Government’s seriousness in the drive for economic recovery.
Speaking later to the US Chamber of Commerce, he said : “My message to you today is that if you want to do business in or with Ireland, as Taoiseach my door is always open to you.”
Mr Kenny told the gathering: “If you got a problem, you have an issue or anxiety or concern or a proposition or a proposal, I want to hear it.
“My number is a public number. You can call me any time.”
He said US business and US investment had an open door to Government “because it’s in Government’s interest to see that . . . opportunities are created for people to live and work and grow our economy”.
All of which would rather point to a strong emphasis on foreign direct investment, boosting GDP.
So which is it, Taoiseach?