In a recent press conference in Dublin, the Irish Exporters Association announced that export growth results are “bang on target”, as their mid-year press release trumpets.
6 Billion, really?!
Yes, compared to the same period in 2010, exports have grown by €6 bn. That’s an 8% growth, which means the projections of the IEA are met. Let’s not forget that the beginning of 2011 wasn’t a bed of roses, either. What with the earthquake in Japan, political unrest and revolutions in the Middle East, oil prices skyrocketing and currency volatility, one can imagine it must have been a bit of a rollercoaster for exporters. As an exporter myself, I can testify that it was. You can just see us clutching our hearts…
And still, Irish exports are doing well. It’s a“good news story”, but at this point it’s not so much of a surprise anymore… We constantly expect exports to be a healthy part of our economy – so let us take a closer look.
Firstly, visually, take note of the fact that last year, we exported almost five times as much as in 1990. This table from the Central Statistics Office says it all.
How come that, in a worldwide economic recession – when even Germany announced that exports fell 1.2% on the month in June – we can boast an 8% growth in this area? Isn’t everyone around the world pinching pennies? Is it possible to uncover some actionable lesson in the good news? I believe it is.
Why exports are good for a country’s economy
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, exports are great, they bring in new money into the country, they contribute to the tax revenue, they maintain jobs. This doesn’t solve all of Ireland’s problems, and I would qualify John Whelan’s statement that “exports and exporters will continue to lead the way out of Ireland’s economic woes”. Exports cannot single-handedly save the entire economy from the recession, but they do go a long way towards improving the health of Irish businesses since they increase sales and cashflow.
And if businesses solve their problems, or at the least, mitigate their losses, that indeed helps our recovery, albeit indirectly. But more importantly, exports are not only a good result, they’re a good sign. They’re an indication that we are doing something right. They testify to the ability of Irish enterprises to adapt and remain competitive in today’s marketplace, even when it involves tough cost-cutting measures. While we lost some of our competitiveness during the Celtic Tiger, we have worked hard at getting it back and these efforts have paid off (as I will talk about many times over the coming weeks, months and posts!).
Let’s blow our own horn for once!
No, exports are not a panacea that will magically erase the recession. Still, growing exports are something to rejoice in – not just because of the amount of money they bring in, but more importantly, because of what they say about Irish skills and abilities. On top of adaptability and competitiveness, exports also confirm that the Irish are good at selling, and good at producing things that other people want.
And even though our culture of emigration has had a bitter aftertaste at times, it has made us expand our horizons. Irish people are not afraid of packing up and going abroad in search of a new life. This is how they’ve developed a feel for foreign cultures, the ability to integrate and adapt to their new life quickly, and, last but certainly not least, they’ve developed a very efficient network through the Irish diaspora around the world.
These qualities and skills are invaluable for exports, and they won’t go away overnight. So here’s to continued export growth!
Here are three websites that you would do well to bookmark, if you want to monitor how our exports are performing:
The Economy page of the Irish Times, in the Business section
Are you on the list?
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