Ireland's miracle economy produced another miracle statistic this week – that it is now the world's second richest country. Only the Japanese, we were told, are better off. A 350 per cent growth of net wealth over 10 years had left the country with 30,000 millionaires among its 4m people.
The report by Bank of Ireland's private banking department is no doubt designed to feed the consumer confidence on which financial services thrive. But how realistic is it as a measure of the changes wrought in the past decade? [rest is pay-per-view]
The International Monetary Fund predicts that the economy will grow 5% this year, compared with 2% for the rest of the eurozone; unemployment in Ireland, at 4.1%, is half that of the region as a whole, despite a baby boom a few decades ago that sent a lot of youngsters into the workforce. Ireland's 12.5% corporate tax rate, the lowest in Europe after Cyprus' 10%, has lured prosperous employers like Intel (nasdaq: INTC - news - people ) and Dell (nasdaq: DELL - news - people ).
Wikipedia has an interesting overall view. A few highpoints:
Irish in Eire own rather than rent at an ear-popping 80%, above the UK which also has more owners than renters, and way above most of Europe, where renting is the norm. The effect of home ownership has long been regarded everywhere as a stabilizing factor in the political landscape, while renters have restless unstabilizing tendencies.
Irish corporate taxes are 12.5%, way below ex-socialist Britain and its rump representative on the island, Northern Ireland where 30% is the norm. Not surprisingly, Eire is booming, NI is stagnant and declining. UK Chancellor Gordon Brown heedlessly remains wedded to punitive corporate tax levels, cause that's what Das Kapital told him was the ticket.
I can recall my first visits to Britain, where the Southern Irish were the butt of all sorts of nasty jokes, most of them social put-downs or implying genetic inferiority. Now the situation is reversed economically, the Irish are quietly enjoying their unprecedented wealthiness. Their fabled good temperament and sportsmanship prevents them from putting on airs or lording it over former colonialists.