by Christopher Follenus
The recent news that Ireland has topped the Good Country Index of 125 countries, to become what some commentators have described as the ‘Goodest’ country in the world, has been met with mild curiosity and skepticism from an Irish public still in post-recession stress disorder. The survey ranks Ireland as first in the world for making a positive contribution to the planet, and ranks it first in terms of prosperity and equality. This joins other recent polls such as the Forbes List of Best Countries for Business, which also ranked Ireland tops.
The CEO of the country’s Industrial Development Authority Barry O’Leary had no qualms about celebrating the news of Ireland’s new ‘Good Country’ status, arguing that the survey recognizes Ireland’s open trading culture as well as the level of foreign direct investment the country continues to enjoy. He stated “Other factors that companies take into account when locating are also recognized here including each country’s ‘freedom of movement’ and our ongoing population growth which is providing companies with skilled graduates.” (The Journal)
The poll ranks Ireland ahead of Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands in the top four. Staying on the subject of graduates, Ireland has also come in tops in a European Commission report for the best educated workforce in Europe, coming out first in a survey of levels of third level education, as the only country with over 50% of the population holding third level qualifications, including 58% of Irish women. (Connect Ireland)
So why the native disbelief? Simon Aholt who conducted the survey said that he had advised 53 countries in his career and has “only come across three that do not suffer from low self-esteem – Sweden, the United States and Kazakhstan”. (Irish Times) Possibly. Ireland during the heyday of the Celtic Tiger economy in the last decade certainly didn’t suffer from issues of self esteem as the country spent record sums on overseas property and nights in the Leading Hotels of the World, so the 2008 crisis and the austerity measures taken in its light would certainly have put a damper on the spirits.
However, as reported recently the Irish economy is continuing to grow again, and the belt tightening of the last few years has given international investors increased confidence in Ireland as a secure and attractive place to do business. As the Forbes lead article stated “Ireland still maintains an extremely pro-business environment that has attracted investments by some of the world’s biggest companies over the past decade”. The article goes on to note that “it is the only nation that ranks among the top 15% of countries in every one of the 11 metrics we examined to gauge the best countries.” (Forbes)
Perhaps some mild skepticism is a healthy thing however, as long as it does not result in the embrace of a more populist politics, which has so far not been the case in Ireland. But the message is clear Ireland is a secure, politically stable, attractive place to do business, just ask the world’s pharmaceuticals, IT firms, airlines, medical device firms and investors. Long may it last.
Who does business in Ireland:
a) More than 50% of the world's financial services firms
b) Ireland is the world's largest exporter of software
c) 9 of the world's top 10 pharmaceutical companies
d) 8 of the top 10 technology companies
e) 11 of the top 13 medical device firms
f) 50% of the world's aircraft are managed from Ireland due to favorable Section 110 regime