Ireland - Domestic policy

Ahern's administration has successfully maintained a strong economy for the nation. Ireland boasts of a steady growth rate, low unemployment, and a surplus in the country's finances. Low corporate taxes, generous state subsidies, and a skilled workforce have attracted large flows of investment capital from abroad, especially in the new information technology sectors. However, a shortage of skilled personnel has emerged, and the government advertises jobs in U.S. cities with large Irish populations, thereby revising Ireland's historic population patterns. But instead of large outflows of people seeking jobs and better livelihood abroad, the government of Ahern has faced an inflow of people seeking economic opportunities. Ahern has also spurred the privatization of semistate bodies, and Ireland is on its way to becoming a nation of shareholders.

Strong growth at the end of the 1990s led to price pressures and rising inflation. To cool off the economy, the government, employers, and unions signed a wage pact in early 2000, holding down pay increases to 15% stretched over 33 months. In return, the government pledged to cut taxes and increase spending on social welfare.

Economic forecasts in April 2003 estimated Ireland's GDP growth for the year to be 3%, down from a previously predicted 4.3%. The appreciating value of the euro, in conjunction with rising domestic costs, placed competitive pressure on exports.

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