Gates says Ireland will emerge from austerity

Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 00:00

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has described Ireland as a “good example” of a country which can come through an austerity programme. Mr Gates predicted that it could take between two to four years before Ireland fully recovers from the recession and it could be the “short end” of that time frame if the euro zone recovers.

“As you’ve had to make cuts and trade-offs, slowly but surely those strengths are showing through compared to other countries . . . Ireland really has a lot of strengths,” he said. “Austerity is tough. . . but eventually it will come to an end.”

Mr Gates said the original decision by Microsoft to set up in Ireland in 1985 was because there were a lot of “smart people” available. There had been pressure to locate in Scotland or Switzerland, but “many factors” came together, most notably the ability to get people into Ireland who had foreign language skills. It was not just about the corporation tax rate.

Mr Gates, who visited Dublin last week, said Ireland had taken a “one-time gigantic hit” as a percentage of GDP to bail out the banks, but the “basic quality of the workforce and the attractiveness as a place to live are still shining through”.

Education key

Speaking in a pre-recorded interview for RTÉ’s new Morning Edition television programme, Mr Gates identified third-level education as the best way for a country to be competitive, and he praised Chuck Feeney’s investment in Irish education.

Despite having already given away $28 billion (€20.8 billion) of his personal fortune, Mr Gates is still worth $64.3 billion (€47.5 billion), according to Bloomberg .

Mr Gates, who has been surpassed in wealth by the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, said he would “still have that problem” of being the richest man in the world had he not given his money away. “I’m solving that problem as fast as I can,” he joked.

He also said progress on meeting the UN Millennium Goals had been accelerating. Reducing abject poverty by half is “well ahead” of schedule and childhood death rates had been halved.