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Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen TD, at the Launch of Building Ireland’s Smart Economy: A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal in Dublin Castle on Thursday 18th December 2008.



A dhaoine uaisle, táimid ag tráth anois go mbeidh na caighdeáin mhaireachtála agus na deiseanna fostaíochta a bheidh i ndán dúinn féin agus dár dteaghlaigh amach anseo ag brath ar na cinntí a bheidh á nglacadh anois againn.  Tá sé fíorthábhachtach gurb iad na cinntí cearta a bheidh á nglacadh anois againn agus go mbeidh siad á nglacadh againn le chéile ar mhaithe le leas na tíre.

We all know that, as a country and as a people, we are facing into a tough period ahead.

I’m not going to spell it out again, except to say, that there are a number of internal and external factors conspiring to give us the biggest economic challenge we have faced in a generation.

We will eventually come through this.

But I don’t want us to come through it, merely as a matter of surviving as best we can. I want us to come through it with a strengthened capacity to provide our citizens with enhanced opportunities and living standards.

If we have a clear vision of where we want to be after this period, it will guide our thinking and actions in the difficult period ahead.

I am clear where I want us to be.

When this is over there will be a new economic order and I want Ireland to be positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities that will be presented.

We will play to our strengths and aim to become the world’s leading location for business innovation.

A country where there will be a critical mass of companies – both Irish and international – at the forefront of innovation, creating the products and services of tomorrow.

A country where entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world will want to come because it provides the best environment for the commercialisation of innovative, leading-edge products and services.

It will have the best tax regime.

It will have the best business supports.

It will have the best infrastructural supports.

It will have state agencies and institutions which are aligned to create competitive advantage for their clients in innovation enterprise. 

It will have quality public services supporting citizens in their various needs at all stages of the life-cycle, with policies and programmes that are equitable and effective, and respect and enhance the dignity of all.  And all of this supported by a public service that is citizen-centred with the right number of people, in the right place, doing the right jobs.

We aim to develop a smart economy and become known as the innovation island.

To achieve this, we have to first of all deal with the here and now. But in dealing with the here and now, we have to ensure that everything we do facilitates the achievement of this vision, a vision which we share with the social partners in our joint commitment to the goals of Towards 2016.

This Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal sets out a number of priorities and actions that we will be taking in the short and medium term and creates a focused structure within which future initiatives and actions will be taken.

Building Ireland’s Smart Economy is a framework that points to Ireland’s future if we do the right things.  The key elements to achieve this are to:

•        address the current economic challenges facing the Irish economy by stabilising the public finances, by improving competitiveness, by supporting those who become unemployed, and by supporting Irish business and multinational companies;

•        invest heavily in research and development, incentivise multinational companies to locate more R&D capacity in Ireland, and ensure the commercialisation and retaining of ideas that flow from that investment;

•        support high-value innovation of products and services that will create hundreds of thriving Irish companies and associated employment;

•        implement a ‘new green deal’ to move us away from fossil fuel-based energy production though investment in renewable energy and to promote the green enterprise sector and the creation of ‘green-collar’ jobs; and,

•        develop first-class infrastructure that will improve quality of life and increase the competitiveness of Irish business.

In each of these areas, we aim to both build on specific strengths and address the threats to our future economic performance through a comprehensive set of Action Points.  A number of these are outlined here today.  Others may be added over the coming months. 

I don’t want to mislead people into believing that this Framework we are launching today is an instant solution to all our problems.  Many of the factors that will determine the timing and pace of the recovery, such as exchange and interest rates, are beyond our control.  It is important, therefore, to emphasise today that there are no ‘magic bullets’ that can allow us to avoid the consequences of the international recession.  But we refuse to simply weather the ‘perfect storm’ of negative international economic factors. 

We should not lose sight of the fact that while we must confront challenging economic circumstances, there are also great opportunities on the horizon.  But achieving them will be demanding.   It will challenge us all to innovate and change, to reinvent what we do and how we do it.  In this situation, we need to think differently, think smart and to foster a culture of creativity and innovation in everything we do.  Put simply, we must get more for less.

Particularly in the public service, we need to be prepared to look at new ways to provide the services the public need in the most efficient and effective manner.  We must focus spending on areas of greatest priority and reduce sharply those activities which are not essential. 

Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal

This Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal brings together measures that will help to begin the process of economic stabilisation over the next few years and to restructure the economy over the period 2009-2014.

The Plan has five Action Areas :

1.       Securing the enterprise economy;

2.       Building the ideas economy;

3.       Enhancing the environment and securing energy supplies;

4.       Investing in critical public infrastructure;

5.        Delivering efficient and effective public services and smarter regulation.

These are a combination of existing policies on which the Government will build and new actions that will drive the restructuring of the economy. This combination is important because a principal objective is to reprioritise the business of Government and to re-focus resources in a manner that will hasten economic renewal. Nevertheless, the process of this strategic change will require significant ongoing and detailed planning right across Government and the state bodies to ensure its proper implementation.

A transformation of the Irish economy is necessary for sustained growth and increasing levels of future national welfare. Innovation is the key.  Ireland must move up the value chain and assert itself not only as an open enterprise economy with a positive environment for Foreign Direct Investment, but also as an open entrepreneurial economy with significant comparative advantages.

A key feature of the smart economy is building the innovation or ‘ideas’ component of the economy through the utilisation of the knowledge, skills and creativity of people, and their ability and effectiveness in translating ideas into valuable processes, products and services.

The Smart Economy is also a ‘Green Economy’ in that it achieves greater output for fewer inputs and results in a lower reliance on natural resources to drive economic growth.  Significantly, around the world there are now calls for what is bring described as a ‘Green New Deal’ to stimulate the economy and get global markets back to work.  We aim to build on this. 

Putting energy efficiency at the heart of this strategy will protect us from the inevitable rise in the cost of energy ‘inputs’ and the pollution ‘outputs’ from our economic activity. As one of the most fossil fuel dependent countries in the world, we must prepare for a future when the prices and volatility we have recently witnessed become the norm.

A Smart Economy has Many Benefits

By pursuing a smart economic growth path, Ireland can secure its position as a highly-successful open and competitive economy which combines –

•        a strong base of modern industry,

•        a competitive export-led financial and business-services industry,

•        a highly skilled and flexible workforce,

•        a positive fiscal environment, and,

•        a pro-business culture which secures it as the location of choice for Foreign Direct Investment and indigenous and overseas innovators and entrepreneurs.

It will create high quality and well-paid jobs.

In this regard, the key elements of the Framework document include:

•        building on Ireland’s significant multinational presence and Ireland’s stock of highly-skilled workers by incentivising greater investments in high-value research and development areas in science and technology;

•        capitalising on the Government’s unprecedented €8.2 billion investment in science and technology with a plan to create a similarly R&D-intensive indigenous enterprise sector through the provision of considerable supports for start-up companies and entrepreneurs;

•        a substantial suite of tax incentives for investments in R&D; and,

•        substantial support for start-up companies including an innovation fund for early stage innovators.


Towards 2016 sets out our vision of the economic and social policy objectives that we want to achieve as a nation. We need to pursue  that vision in new ways that take account of the new priorities that we have identified in order to deal with the economic crisis that faces us.

The Framework that we are publishing today sets out the strategic direction that we wish to take to manage the transition to a new model of sustainable economic growth.  

This Framework does not seek to outline all the reforms or measures which will be required across the economy. Instead, it sets out a clear direction which the Government intends to pursue and some of the specific actions we will take in the short-term to help us get there.

Neither does the Framework address all of the policy challenges which arise from the interdependence of economic and social policy issues as set out in Towards 2016, reflecting the important work of the NESC in this area.   The primary objective of this document is to outline a pathway forward which acknowledges the severe short-term economic challenge, while focusing on how we can return to sustainable growth in the medium-term.

The successful implementation of this Framework cannot just be delivered by the policy measures and investments put in place by Government. 

We will be engaging intensively with the Social Partners in the coming weeks on how we can develop and implement this Framework, beginning with the need to devise a credible time frame in which to close the gap in the public finances. The end of year Exchequer returns will inform the discussion with the Social Partners which I view as a problem solving process.

I firmly believe that all of the people involved in that process have the country’s interests at heart. More and more people will lose jobs if we don’t face up to the challenges and overcome them.  We are putting forward today the Government’s thinking on how this challenge can be met.   In doing so we are preparing a Framework which is explicitly grounded in the principles agreed with the social partners in the review of Towards 2016 and on the basis of which we are inviting others to join with us.

At our meeting on Tuesday with the Social Partners, we agreed that we will work together with a specific focus on agreeing, by the end of January, an approach to managing those challenges we now face.


The Government today has set out a Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal. However, we will only achieve the prosperous future that the Irish people deserve if, during these extremely difficult times, we pursue a shared approach that is in the best interests of the country. 

There are those who seem to decry the idea of a shared purpose and a common endeavour.   Social Partnership has always had its critics.   But I assert today the Government’s commitment to that process and the engagement on the basis of mutual dependence and respect which it has always brought to problem-solving.   Those who expect to have their needs and ideas considered as part of the national recovery effort have a duty to participate responsibly in that process.

Today, I appeal to all those people in positions of leadership, all those in a position of influence and, most importantly, ordinary decent people the length and breadth of the country, to join with me in a national effort, as we take the necessary difficult decisions that will lead us onto the path to economic renewal and to a prosperous future for ourselves and our children.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.



Click on the attached link for a copy of the report.