By Shane McGinley
Former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton is in the Gulf to promote the Irish financial services sector.
Despite a recent $90bn bailout from the EU and the IMF, Ireland “is a solid and solvent entity”, a former Irish Prime Minister told Arabian Business on Monday on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai aimed at promoting the Irish financial services sector.
“I sense a strong confidence in the situation in Ireland and recognition that the difficult decisions are going to have to be made but it ultimately the foundation is solid,” said John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland.
Ireland recently received a bailout of around $90bn from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to help absorb the toxic loans in its domestic banking sector resulting from the collapse of the Irish property market.
The country has also been forced to announce a four-year National Recovery Plan, which aims to cut government spending by over $13 and raise tax revenues by nearly $20bn in order to reduce its budget deficit to three percent of GDP by 2014.
Bruton, who is also chairman of the International Financial Services Center (IFSC) in Dublin, was in the Gulf to promote the financial sector in Ireland and met some key business players in the region, including HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company (KHC).
“I think the strong sense I get from all the people I meet here, including Prince Alwaleed, is a sense that Ireland, because it has, not only the sovereign backing of the Irish government, but also now the European Union, is a solid and sol./vent entity, which can support business and provide a measure of certainty for business and that is very important,” Bruton added.
Prince Alwaleed visited the country in 2003 and Bruton said he was confident that the Saudi royal would look to increase investments between the kingdom and Ireland. Prince Alwaleed currently has a number of investments in Ireland through KHC which include; Citigroup in the banking sector and the hospitality sector via Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
Ireland is a popular market for international funds, with 42 percent of the world’s alternative investment funds serviced through Irish companies, As of June 2010, the total value of assets held by Irish funds amounted to $2.3 trillion.
The country has also begun to look at attracting Islamic finance and this year amended its tax legislation to ensure that Islamic financial products are treated in the same way as conventional finance.
Bruton’s visit will also take in Qatar and Bahrain and is the second Irish trade tour in a matter of weeks.
Last month, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe announced that hundreds of Saudi students are to be trained in colleges in Ireland as part of a new agreement between the Irish and Saudi governments.
O’Keeffe, said the agreement had been finalised during a trade mission to the Gulf, which also resulted in the signing of nearly $50m worth of deals between Gulf and Irish companies.
Under the terms of the deal, Saudi students will receive vocational training at Carlow Institute of Technology, Cork Institute of Technology and Blanchardstown Institute of Technology in Dublin as part of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Scholarship Programme.
Around 800 Saudi nationals are currently studying in Ireland, an arrangement worth some €20m ($27.2m) annually to the Irish economy. Last year, Irish exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE totalled €76m.For all the latest banking and finance news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.