Irish Economy
Irish General Election 2011: Labour's enterprise policy - - a depressingly vacuous menu of actionless actions
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Feb 1, 2011 - 3:44 AM

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Labour Party leader, Eamon Gilmore, outlines plans for 'Digital Ireland,' Jan 31, 2011.

Irish General Election 2011: Last Sunday, the Labour Party launched its enterprise policy but it's a depressingly vacuous menu of actionless actions, which proposes cosmetic changes to failed policies.

Irish political parties do not produce detailed policies and what are termed so, are menus of soundbites with the blanks filled in on assuming office by commissioning reports from management consultancy firms and setting up taskforces of assumed 'experts' from the lists of worthies, maintained by senior civil servants. 

The new Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin (who is also currently a schoolteacher, on leave from Presentation College, Cork) as health minister, commissioned 145 reports and reviews during his four-year period in that office.

The most depressing aspect of Labour's Plan for Enterprise, Innovation and Growth (pdf), is that there is no recognition of the serious challenges in creating 200,000 net new jobs.

There is no recognition that Brian Cowen's 'smart economy' strategy will never be an engine of growth; there is no fresh thinking or evidence that the people who put this menu together have any understanding of exporting; there is no evidence that there is an understanding of what a credible jobs strategy requires.

The principal headline in the plan is the proposal for a  €500m Jobs Fund, run by a Cabinet sub-committee. This is in addition to a Strategic Investment Bank, which is similar to the 1930s creation of the Industrial Credit Company.

The easiest proposal for a politician to make is to spend more money and it's not that enterprise policy is currently starved of funds.

Of the current €1bn annual science budget, about half of it is spent on supporting research activities, which could be termed a jobs stimulus program.

The plan says "Labour has identified...additional deficiencies in Ireland’s national system of innovation: a failure to properly support applied scientific and technology research beyond the basic stage supported by Science Foundation Ireland and the lack of financing for companies involved in this stage of technology development. As such, while basic (non-commercial) research is adequately supported by SFI and while companies that are already in the market have a range of supports from Enterprise Ireland, there is a significant gap in the supports available for companies that are taking technology from proof-of-concept stage up to the stage where they can be taken to market by an investor. Furthermore, there are very limited prospects that this gap will be filled by private funding."

It's proposed that some existing agencies be merged; a network of Technology Research Centres will be established focused on applied technological research in specific areas to be located in appropriate higher-education institutions. The centres will accelerate the exploitation of new technologies by providing infrastructure that bridges the gap between research and technology commercialisation.

The plan says that the "aim is to create the foundations for a national system of innovation that will enable Ireland to join the first rank of innovative economies during the next decade."

It all sounds like something former Enterprise and Innovation Minister, Batt O'Keeffe, could have said.

The new Innovation Strategy Agency (ISA) will be tasked with closing the gap between universities / SFI and industry through a ‘translational infrastructure’ to provide a business-focused capacity and capability that bridges research and technology commercialization.

This is religion from pious amateurs out of their depth and reminiscent of Brian Cowen's dream of creating a European Silicon Valley in Ireland and up to 235,000 jobs.

The facts continue to be ignored and amateur politicians want to provide more tax funds.

Why deal with for example the inconvenient fact that the default exits for venture capital investments in young high tech companies with potential, is the sale to a bigger overseas company?

The other 'big idea' in the plan is in respect of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India & China) and other emerging growth markets.

It is proposed to establish a local trade and investment team reporting to the local Irish Ambassador or Head of Mission and the Minister for Enterprise, which will execute a detailed local market plan. Progress against targets will be reviewed annually.

The plan says figures from the Central Statistics Office, show that from from January 2008 to Oct 2010, the share of Irish trade with the BRICs constituted less that 4% of our overall external trade.

This data excludes services exports but the main issue here is that trade from Ireland is dominated by foreign firms and decisions on the destination of their exports are not generally made in Ireland.

Besides, multinationals are not going to use Ireland a base for large-scale shipment to Asia.

Irish trade with India is currently a decimal point; it's simply stupid to believe that there would be big potential for indigenous companies by placing an Irish enterprise team in Mumbai.

Issues such as this and much more are covered here:

Irish General Election 2011: The challenge of creating 200,000 new jobs and the media as cheerleader

"We campaign in poetry, but when we’re elected we’re forced to govern in prose,” New York governor, Mario Cuomo, said in a speech at Yale University, in 1985.

What the Labour Party has dished up is reheated unappetising prose, when there is a yearning for a new departure.


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