Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny says he will make it easier for companies to do business in Ireland.
Speaking at the Dublin Founders conference last Friday, attended by many of the world's leading entrepreneurs, Kenny said his government was going to focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, a sector he believes would lead Ireland to prosperity.
Although Ireland's corporation tax is one of the lowest in the European Union (12.5%), the prime minister denies the low tax is the reason the country has attracted companies such as Google, Inc. and Microsoft Corp.
"It is a cornerstone undoubtedly of why companies might invest in Ireland. But no matter what the business is, it is always about people that can actually develop it and grow it," he told The Wall Street Journal Europe at the conference.
"So all of them are here, and they are not just here because of the [corporate tax] rate, they are here, as the CEO of one Silicon Valley company said, because of the passion of the young people to build and to work the challenges that everybody faces."
He criticized the growth strategy implemented by the previous government.
"For years Ireland used to have a philosophy of get [major enterprises] in here to invest and develop in Ireland and this will sort out our problems. It is good in the sense of building a trade surplus, but we also want to develop what it is that we offer," he said.
"On the one hand our exports are strong. We now have to deal with the indigenous economy which has been flat. We are going to focus on jobs and on small and medium enterprises at which we can excel."
Kenny wants to free up capital for investment and reduce the bureaucratic burden on companies.
"You must make credit available to small businesses and that has not been happening to the extent that we would like to see," he said.
"What we are going to do is to bring in a microfinance scheme for very small operators. Secondly, we are going to legislate for partial loan credit-guarantee schemes which operate well in a number of other countries."
He also said he wanted to cut the red tape.
"We are recognized ... as one of the easiest countries in the world in which to set up a company, but I meet business people who say to me that 'I have had to mortgage the house to start this up here', or 'I have run into red tape at local-authority level'," he said.
"What we want to do is to find out where the stone is under the door and release it so that the thing can flow. I say to business people: show me where the red tape is and I will cut it for you."
The conference ran from Thursday to Saturday and was attended by around 200 entrepreneurs from around the world.
Kenny made it clear that Ireland was open for business.
"My job is to rectify the public finances and hand the country back to the people so they can really have a future, and that is what I will do. This is an essential part of that," he said.
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