400 business leaders are gathering at the Dublin Convention Centre today to discuss "From Here to Prosperity" at Ibec's CEO conference. The atmosphere is quite different at today's conference compared to Ibec's first CEO conference four years ago.
The chief executive of employers' group Ibec said the tax-cutting agenda now needs to be advanced to ensure confidence is brought back for consumers and to the workforce - therefore getting the country to a point where prosperity can be reached. Danny McCoy said he hoped Ireland would see the unemployment rate fall to 6% over the next three years. He said this was a key factor for the economy to get back on track, as well as loosening the burden on everybody else who had been working in the taxation system.
Mr McCoy said the demand for wage increases indicated that confidence was coming back. He said that up to half of companies expected they would be paying pay increases in 2014, but half still need wage freezes. He said Ireland could not have across the board wage demands, but could certainly get disposal income released by reducing income taxes. Ibec's CEO added that there had been an element of "keeping down with the Jones" in Ireland in recent years, but consumers are now growing more confident about both their own future and the future of the country.
Patrick Lenain, the OECD senior official with responsibility for Ireland, said that while the Irish recovery is progressing there are still challenges ahead for the economy. Mr Lenain says the business sector holds the key to the recovery and says that while Irish businesses are very innovative, he would like to see entrepreneurship here becoming more dynamic and called for more start-ups to be set up here. On the issue of corporation tax, the OECD man says that the Irish tax rate is not the only attractive feature for international businesses locating here - citing the country's education system and skilled workforce.
Ireland is not a tax haven by OECD definitions, he stated, adding that tax problems are evident around the world. He said that tax issues are an international problem, which will need an international solution. Ireland is fully onboard with working through the tax issues and is co-operating fully with the OECD on this issue, he added. Mr Lenain also said it is vital that the Government makes sure the people who have been especially hit by the crisis are taken care of, adding that youth unemployment is one area which needs urgent attention.