UPDATE: Taoiseach Brian Cowen said on Sunday that he had decided not to travel to China until Tuesday. He is struggling to resolve a crisis triggered by the restriction of medical care entitlement for over 70s, that had its genesis in 2001, as an unplanned "rabbit-out-of-the hat" electoral bribe. Members of Cowen's own party Fianna Fáil, so-called "independent" TDs who sold their votes for five years of job security and the Green Party, only objected to the restrictions that were proposed in last Tuesday's Budget, after a public outcry.
The Green Party, which has zero influence on economic policy, had nodded through the provisions in Cabinet, in return for a €5 million allocation to build a cycle path through Green Party leader John Gormley's political constituency.
|China's Long-March II-F rocket carrying Shenzhou-VII spacecraft ignites during launch at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu province on Thursday Sept. 25, 2008.|
During a two-hour meeting with the editor-in-chief of the US journal Science, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed hope for increasing investment in basic research, reducing energy consumption by 4% annually as economic gains continue, improving food safety and leveraging science to help the poor.
Wen's conversation with Bruce Alberts of Science, is being published in the journal's 17 October 2008 edition. An editorial written by Wen, plus a news article on science and technology in China, also will appear in a forthcoming issue of Science, which is published by the non-profit American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
"In recent years, we have continuously increased the level of support" for basic research, Wen told Alberts, describing fundamental scientific investigations as "the wellspring and driving force" of innovation. "But I think [China's investment in basic research] is still insufficient."China's Ministry of Science and Technology has reported that 5% of the nation's total investment in science is being spent on basic research, according to Alberts, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco. By comparison, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has reported that 17.5% of the United States' total investment in science was being spent on basic research in 2007.
But scientific achievement by Chinese scientists and engineers has turned sharply upward in recent years, based on scholarly journal articles and patents. In addition, Alberts said after returning to Washington, D.C., that he was extremely impressed by the high caliber of students he met at Tsinghua and Peking universities. Among 500,000 young people who took a national university entrance examination in one particular province, for example, only 70 were accepted, according to a student who spoke with Alberts during his trip. Photo: Xinhua
Taoiseach Brian Cowen heads for China on Tuesday, leading an Irish trade mission to the world's fastest growing significant economy. Irish-owned firms' share of Ireland's exports to China in 2007, was as low as 6.7%.
Irish exports to China in 2007 were valued at €1.95 billion - - a 30% increase on the previous year. Exports by Irish-owned firms grew by 1.3% to €130 million.
The total export figures are the ones ministers like to brag about.
In June 2007, the then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin, TD said at a conference on China, in Cork: "At the same time I am even happier to acknowledge that Ireland’s export trade to China continues to boom- in recent times even more steadily in relation to services exports. Ireland’s knowledge –based economy, built on innovation and technology, is substantially shaped by the emergence of strong technology-led and export-focused Irish companies. Companies, which have become world leaders in their respective industries.
Ireland, thus, has much to offer the Chinese market - and China recognises that fact,"
This was bullshit - - in fact dangerous bullshit.
Martin may have been a good school teacher as his successor Mary Coughlan, may have been a good social worker, but at this uncertain time for the Irish economy, the time for delusion is over.
The Irish companies that "have become world leaders in their respective industries' are foreign-owned companies in Ireland, such as Microsoft, Intel and Pfizer. They are overwhelmingly responsible for Ireland's exports to China and decisions regarding the destination of exports from these firms, are not generally made in Ireland.
As with much else during the Celtic Tiger, the spin becomes fact and there is no credible policymaking because the real challenges faced by Ireland, are ignored.
Enterprise Ireland told Finfacts, that exports to China by Irish indigenous companies increased by 1.3% in 2007 to €130 million, and are forecast to reach €150 million in 2008. Main areas of activity include software, telecoms, education, construction services, healthcare and manufacturing.
So Irish -owned firms accounted for 6.7% of Ireland's exports to China in 2007 and even IBEC, the principal Irish business organisation fell for the official spoof.
Finfacts Report: Irish Economy: IBEC and understanding the world East of Suez
|Trade Missions and Spin
|It may seem in the coming week that Brian Cowen will wave a magic wand and conjure up business deals, thereby achieving feats that he has rarely matched at home.
The script is already written and many will fall for the routine, including the media.
There will be announcements every day on signing ceremonies and new business deals and the news will be relayed by the travelling journalists to the folks at home.
My guess is that most of the business announcements that Enterprise Ireland has arranged, relate to past business, even as far back as 18 months.
As for the the ballyhoo of signing ceremonies, most business is not conducted this way.
Developing new markets in Asia will never be easy and in the food area, where Ireland should have some advantages, Australia and New Zealand are already well entrenched. Their produce is well known across the region.
There will always be niche areas but the potential for huge business for the Irish economy, is not good, beyond what the multinationals can generate.
The current trade mission is interesting for two reasons.
Education institutions - - both public and private -- dominate the sector categories with 24 participants out of 99.
Last year the Indian government refused to allow an Irish education recruitment mission following the collapse in 2004 of a business called "Dundalk Business School," which left Indian students out of pocket by as much as €7,500.
The Indian ambassador In Dublin had been demanding a regulatory framework governing student recruitment with mechanisms for redress in cases of violations and provision for fee refunds.
In 2006, a trip by 18 colleges was allowed to go-ahead after the Government assured the ambassador that his concerns would be addressed immediately.
Then, the Government promised to set up on an interim basis, within weeks, Education Ireland, a statutory body to oversee international education services, but that had not happened.
In the past, the education route was a backdoor mechanism to bypass EU visa restrictions and high fees were paid to Irish private institutions with the primary purpose to work in the EU.
The Ireland-China trade mission is confined to Shanghai and Beijing. There will be no visit to the industrial heartland, the Pearl River Delta, in the south.
It's akin to a mission to the US, that would be confined to New York and Washington DC but with Silicon Valley ignored, even though it could be the most fertile area for business development long-term.
|Photo taken on Oct. 7, 2008 shows scenic Qilian Mountain, in northwest China's Qinghai Province. Photo: Xinhua |
It clearly reflects the lack of Irish connections in this key region.
Guangdong province in the Delta, has China's highest GDP. As in Hong Kong, to the south, Cantonese is the main dialect in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, but many of the 19 million migrants in Guangdong do not speak Cantonese well. So knowledge of Mandarin can be useful for day to day operational inter-company contact. English is not widely spoken there.
Cork City Council, Fingal County Council and Waterford County Council are participating in the trade mission.
Maybe they are trying to boost service exports by selling efficiency expertise, or maybe not!
Finfacts Report: China celebrates remarkable transition at XXIX Olympiad; Economy forecast to be world's largest from 2015 - regaining position it lost in 1890
|The following list of organisations have registered to participate on the Enterprise Ireland Trade Mission to China 2008.
A & L Goodbody
Advance Innovations Ltd.
AIB International Financial Services Ltd.
All in All Ingredients Ltd.
Allied Irish Banks
American College Dublin
Botany Weaving Mill Ltd.
Byrne Curtin Kelly
Carlow Institute of Technology
Connolly's Red Mills
Continuum Commerce Solutions
Cork City Council
Cork English College
Cylon Controls Limited
Dairygold Food Ingredients
Distag Manufacturing Ltd
Dublin Airport Authority
Dublin Business School
Dublin City University
Dundalk Institute of Technology
E Pearson & Co. Ltd.
Electronic Product Services Ltd.
Emerald Cultural Institute
Fingal County Council
Fintrax Group Holdings
Greyhound Recycling and Recovery
Griffith College Dublin
Health Action Overseas
Henry J Lyons & Partners Architects
Instant Upright Ltd.
Institute of Chartered Accounts in Ireland
Institute of Technology Athlone
Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
Institute of Technology Dublin
Institute of Technology Galway - Mayo
Institute of Technology Tallaght
Institute of Technology Tralee
Institute of Technology Waterford
Ireland China Association
Irish Dairy Board
Irish Thouroughbred Marketing
Kelly Hunter Ltd.
Kerry Ingredients Asia-Pacific
Lifes 2 Good
Marco Beverage Systems
Mason Hayes & Curran
Monex Financial Solutions
National College of Ireland
National University of Ireland, Galway
National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Norkom Technologies Ireland Ltd.
PM Asia Project Services Pte. Ltd.
Shenick Network Systems Ltd.
Silver Hill Foods
Stafford Lynch Ltd.
Tax Back International
Tanco Autowrap Ltd.
Tanco Autowrap Ltd.
The Institute of Education
Timoney Technology Group
Trinity College Dublin
University College Cork
University College Dublin
University College Dublin - Applied Language Centre
University of Limerick
Vyro Games Ltd.
Waterford County Council
Web Reservations International
Wellington Computer Systems
Zhuhai Orbita Control Engineering Co.Ltd