Ireland’s emergence from economic meltdown provides a model for other nations, the Taoiseach has told the World Economic Forum.
Enda Kenny also defended his country’s tax arrangements with multinational companies, telling the audience past claims that it was a tax haven for big businesses were without foundation.
Mr Kenny took part in a panel discussion titled How to Reboot the Global Economy on the second day of the forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Asked about his country’s journey from financial crash to being the EU’s fastest growing economy, the Taoiseach said: “We have set a model here of how government can actually deal with a very catastrophic position and yet, in a relatively short time, come through that.
“The important thing is you set down the foundations to continue that prospect for the future, that young people are given a sense of hope, given a sense of inspiration that they can play a part, follow their career ambitions and have a lifestyle.”
He added: “As a small country we are a small model demonstration of how far you can move in a short time. The challenge is to put in place the process, the longer term economic strategy to be able to continue that for those that come behind us.”
Mr Kenny took part in the event alongside Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, Brazil’s finance minister Nelson Henrique Barbosa-Filho, and Zhang Xin, the chief executive of SOHO China Limited.
In terms of attracting foreign direct investment, Mr Kenny said Ireland’s relatively low 12.5% corporation tax rate was not as important as the country’s talent pool.
When the discussion turned to tax avoidance practices used by some multinational companies, Mr Kenny noted past allegations made in the US that Ireland had been a tax haven.
He described the claims as “completely false, baseless and untrue”.
The Taoiseach insisted there had been “no special deals” with any companies.
“From our point of view we defend 100% the authenticity of the way we do business with international companies,” he said.
Professor Stiglitz is a critic of austerity policies implemented by some eurozone countries.
At one point he was asked from the audience if his theory was undermined by the growth levels Ireland was now recording.
“I wouldn’t call it a victory yet, you’ve turned the corner, which is great, and I have got to commend you for that,” he replied. “Among the countries that had austerity, you did the best.”
In response, Mr Kenny said: “We are not declaring any victory here, we’re reporting progress and we are reporting the management of that progress for the future, in the people’s interests.”
Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher criticised Mr Kenny comments at the forum.
He said his contribution ignored “strong criticism” of his policies.
“By focusing on praising himself he ignores the much stronger argument that our recovery and ability to weather the crisis is based on the skills and enterprise of the Irish people built up over decades,” he said.