Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (22, 23)

Willie Penrose

Question:

21 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs announced during 2003 from new investments or expansion of IDA backed plants; the expected level of announcements during 2004; the steps being taken to promote job creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8093/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. In 2003, 32 green field and expansion job creation projects were announced by IDA Ireland with a projected total job content of nearly 5,600 jobs. This result was achieved against the backdrop of two consecutive years of falling global inflows of foreign direct investment, FDI. In 2002, for example, global FDI inflows declined by one fifth to $651 billion, the lowest level since 1998. The main factor behind the decline was slow economic growth in most parts of the world, a phenomenon that had an inevitable impact on a small, open, trade dependent economy such as Ireland.

Looking to 2004, IDA believes that this year will be its best since 2000 in terms of new investments into Ireland and of growth in the value and scale of activities in overseas companies operating here. This view is based on contacts with client companies and strong indications of a substantial recovery in growth in the global economy and consequent increased flows of FDI. The IDA is now competing for some significant, high value investments. I believe vigorous pursuit by IDA Ireland of its main policy objectives is the best response to the current challenging environment.

Key features of this approach include: continuing investment promotion activities to generate new flows of FDI into Ireland, which involves pursuing high quality sustainable projects that are in keeping with the competitive characteristics of the Irish economy today and seeking out niches of business in which Ireland can carve out world market leadership, so as to continue the growth and development of the economy; limiting the immediate impact of the global downturn by working closely with foreign owned companies already located in Ireland, which involves concentrating more resources on helping to underpin the competitiveness of these companies by identifying new investment opportunities and encouraging them to move up the value chain into higher value products and services and into higher order functions, such as R&D; and working to maximise investment levels from sectors less affected by the global economic downturn, such as health care and pharmaceuticals.

As the ultimate decision regarding where to locate a project rests with overseas investors, it is difficult to predict the exact number of IDA supported investment projects announcements that might be made in 2004. However, I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will bear fruit in terms of maximising new investment and jobs.

Liz McManus

Question:

22 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the results of her recent investment promotion trip to the United States; if specific commitments were made in regard to investment projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8072/04]

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I recently visited the US from 23 to 27 February on a promotional programme organised by IDA Ireland. IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment, FDI, to Ireland. The primary objective of my visit was to market "Ireland Inc." as an ideal business location for US companies wishing to invest or increase their investment overseas and also to further enhance and develop the existing relationships Ireland has with US companies which already operate here. The programme involved meeting with chairmen, CEOs and other senior executives of leading companies in pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, information and communications technology and other sectors that offer high quality sustainable FDI that is in keeping with the competitive characteristics of the Irish economy today.

While many of the companies involved already have substantial and valuable activities in Ireland, I also met with companies that are considering major investments here for the first time. The feedback from these meetings confirmed to me the high standing in which Ireland is viewed as a business location by leading global companies. They are aware of, and impressed by, the high standards of performance that are achieved and maintained by Irish management and staff within foreign owned companies who have existing operations here. The meetings also underlined to me the importance of the Government's commitment to strengthen research and education capabilities, while retaining the flexibility and responsiveness of our operating environment and low tax regime.

While no specific commitments were made in regard to new investment projects during my visit, I am not surprised at this as most major FDI projects can involve a lengthy evaluation/decision making process. It is often the case following such visits that a considerable number of meetings and discussions will take place between the company and IDA Ireland before the company makes a final decision on location. However, I am optimistic that new investments and jobs will follow in time, particularly given the positive views expressed to me about Ireland and the high standing in which Ireland is viewed as a business location by leading global companies.