Friday, June 23, 2006

Binge There Done That.

Its always fascinating to get outsiders view of your country and the Jerusalem Post’s perspective is probably as detached as any. The author of this piece was tasked with finding examples of successful small nations, which might offer Israelis clues as how to grow their own economy, Oy vey!

Two more different nations than the Swiss and the Irish would be difficult to imagine. If they can both achieve success, and maybe even happiness, by going their own different ways - then good luck to both of them. The real question is whether the Irish approach can hold up over the long term - and the answer is quite likely negative. The Irish are flush with the cheap and easy money that the single currency has provided them, thanks mainly to German frugality, and they seem intent on blowing it. In addition to flashy spending of the usual sort - the rate of ownership of BMWs and Mercedes in Ireland is higher than in Germany - they are hooked on a crazed binge of property buying. This encompasses both their own real estate - so that derelict barns in remote country villages fetch six-figure euro prices - and others' too, especially in the developing East European countries, from Poland down to Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, with regard to its infrastructure, Ireland itself remains decades, in some respects generations, behind its West European peers. Israel, itself a laggard, is a paragon compared to the ballyhooed Irish (remember Bibi's extolling of Irish achievements?). Their road network is like ours was 15 years ago, before we began spending money on it, and their rail network seems to be unchanged from 50 years ago. As for Dublin airport, the old terminal at Ben-Gurion on a bad day in August was a positive experience, by comparison.

Fine houses, fancy cars no roads. That's short-termism run amok, a feel-good formula leading nowhere. The Swiss may not know much about feel-good fixes and they may be unfriendly and cold, but they are the world experts on protecting and enhancing the wealth they steadily accrue. As ever, they are much the safer bet.


Anonymous said...

Rail network looks like it hasn't changed in fifty years?

i have to take issue with that. Fifty yars ago we had a traing service to my home town, Navan, and Kells, Kingscourt and beyond. Now we have a promise of a service by 2015 (this is after previous promises of 2004, 2006, 2009...

Duplex said...

Hadn't spotted that glaring error, we probably did have a better rail infrastructure half a century ago . But why Navan commuters don't hop on top of those cement trains (3rd world style) is beyond me.