Name the country at the end of the rainbow!

Wednesday, 14 March, 2012

“Here’s something you probably didn’t know: X today is the richest country in the European Union after Luxembourg.” Baffled by the location of X? Try these clues: “Yes, the country that for hundreds of years was best known for emigration, tragic poets, famines, civil wars and leprechauns today has a per capita G.D.P. higher than that of Germany, France and Britain.”

Tom Friedman It was the year 2005 and Thomas Friedman, star columnist with the New York Times, was in Dublin. Possibly tired, certainly very emotional, he told an amazing story: “How Ireland went from the sick man of Europe to the rich man in less than a generation is an amazing story. It tells you a lot about Europe today: all the innovation is happening on the periphery by those countries embracing globalization in their own ways — Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe — while those following the French-German social model are suffering high unemployment and low growth.”

The End of the Rainbow” is full of gems, but none is more priceless that this quote by Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computer: “Our factory is in Limerick, but we also have several thousand sales and technical people outside of Dublin. The talent in Ireland has proven to be a wonderful resource for us.” Fun fact: four years later, Dell fired 1,900 of those talented people at its Limerick factory. Most hilarious, however, are the conclusions Friedman draws from what he sees in Dublin:

“Ireland’s advice is very simple: Make high school and college education free; make your corporate taxes low, simple and transparent; actively seek out global companies; open your economy to competition; speak English; keep your fiscal house in order; and build a consensus around the whole package with labor and management — then hang in there, because there will be bumps in the road — and you, too, can become one of the richest countries in Europe.”

That “keep your fiscal house in order” bit is, in light of Ireland’s economic collapse, somewhat embarrassing and it makes one wonder about what exactly goes on in Thomas Friedman’s head. Since writing that fantastic piece datelined Dublin in June 2005, he has been racking up those airmiles, pounding out advice to global leaders, making sense of the world for his readers and generally doing his best to maintain his mansion.

Back in Ireland, property prices have fallen by 68 percent since Tom visited, and 20,000 jobseekers have queued for a chance of a better life at the end of the rainbow.

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