DUBLIN — While doing research on folk beliefs in Ireland in the early 20th century, an American anthropologist asked an elderly woman if she believed in fairies. “No, I do not, sir,” came the seemingly decisive reply. End of story? Not a chance. “However, they are there anyway,” the lady continued, perhaps wryly trying to make fun of her overly-earnest interlocutor. This well known anecdote might in fact be apocryphal, and though the supernatural is long gone from Irish popular culture, there is a mystical tinge to the country’s recent economic boom-to-bust saga. From the mid-1990s to 2007, Ireland’s economic growth changed a nation of emigrants into one where around 10 percent of the population were recently arrived immigrants, many from Eastern Europe. Growth ranged from 5-10 percent over a 15-year period and Ireland acquired the “Celtic Tiger” moniker after a Morgan Stanley economist compared the transformation of the North Atlantic island with the Asian Tiger economies of South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Since 2008, however, Ireland’s GDP has contracted by 14 percent and its unemployment rate is now around the same percentage. One Asian country that was never close to joining the Tiger ranks was Burma. The country’s military rulers are known for their attachment to bizarre economic thinking, some of it apparently based on numerology or other esoteric notions.
BANGKOK — Home to over half the world’s population, Asia’s array of growing, dynamic economies will become an increasingly important place for Irish business going forward. That was the key message delivered at the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum held in Bangkok recently. Hosted by the Irish Thai Chamber of Commerce, the forum brought together over 400 Irish business leaders with operations across Asia and follows up on the recent Global Ireland event held at Farmleigh. However, despite Asia’s potential and resistance to the current downturn, Liam O’Keefe – a Farmleigh attendee and leading Irish businessman in Asia – told the Bangkok gathering that that Asia was not originally on the Farmleigh agenda. Jerome Kelly is President of the Chamber. He told the Irish Examiner that “we aim see how we can create opportunities for the Irish businesses looking to expand and invest in Asia.”