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Howard's End: The Luck Of The Irish

We're told the success of Ireland is an example for New Zealand to follow in surfing the knowledge wave into the future. But, hold on, Ireland receives millions of dollars of U.S. and EU cash subsidies. Maree Howard writes.

Since 1986, the U.S. Government has given Ireland $US 371 million of pork, $US25 million this year, under a plan called The International Fund for Ireland.

According to the Congressional record revealed this week by Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), the fund was originally set-up to assist the Irish people gain, "equality and help in job creation."

CAGW was established in 1988 out of frustration that the U.S. Government was squandering taxpayers money. Membership has grown from an original 5,000 to one million as of this year.

Mr Schatz says nobody quite knows what this fund is for anymore, but it has existed since 1986 and is just one example of billions of dollars of the American people's money which is squandered each year by U.S. Congressmen promoting and supporting "pork-barrel politics."

And it doesn't end there!

The sign most often seen in Ireland these days - next to every new bridge, road or telephone line - is not for Guinness beer.

Rather, it is a big blue billboard that blares: "This project has received financial assistance from the European Community."

European Union membership has not only brought Ireland a new infrastructure, thanks to millions in EU aid, but it has transformed it from one of the poorest countries in Europe into the country which is now sold to New Zealanders as the flourishing "Celtic Tiger."

Once famous for its potato famine Ireland, until the recent financial tech-wreck, was the European hub for Intel, Dell, Gateway, Xerox, Microsoft, and Apple.

But the thing that's really got up my craw is that, as far as I am aware, not one of the speakers at the recent Catching the Knowledge Wave conference in Auckland mentioned that Ireland was receiving millions of dollars in overseas aid from the U.S. along with EU aid as well.

In fact, Ireland could be described as a true "beneficiary" of globalisation.

Yet night after night on our television screens and in the general media Kiwi's were told that Ireland's business practices are an example we must follow if we are to be successful.

For crying out loud, there was even a whole hour of a TV One news special about the conference where some Irish talking head featured as a guru of the Irish success story.

What makes it all the more galling is that he had the temerity to offer us advice.

I wouldn't have minded so much if we were told right from the start; "Sure, Ireland is doing well - now - but we do receive a whole heap of free money to help us on our way."

Is it any wonder their Government can afford a 10% corporate tax rate?

Worse, the low tax Irish example allowed our business guru's and some bloody stupid politicians, to immediately jump on the low-tax bandwagon and promote it as the 'Holy Grail' for New Zealand's future success.

Most people in Ireland seem to love the new roads and bridges along with the economic opportunities which has enabled Ireland to overcome its legacy of poverty and emigration. But there are also many who fear that Ireland's delightfully eccentric culture and identity could get paved over on this road to paradise.

Look, I want lower taxes as much as the next person, but do we have to resort to what I can only describe as sheer dishonest rhetoric and manipulation to convince New Zealander's that the road to economic success must be lower taxes based on the Irish example?

Come to think of it, the alternative might be for New Zealand to allow itself to fall to poverty-country status, and get some of that money out of the pork barrel aid industry as well. Then we really could lower our corporate tax rate to 10% and that would surely make some of our business guru's happy.

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