Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has praised Ireland’s efforts to recover from the collapse of the Celtic Tiger – and claimed the Irish economy will bounce back within two to four years.

Recently surpassed as the world’s richest man, Gates has told Irish state broadcaster RTE that he is confident the country will come through the EU-IMF austerity programme.

The Irish Times reports that, in a pre-recorded interview with the new Morning Edition programme, Gates described Ireland as a ‘good example’ of a country which can recover from austerity.

The Microsoft founder predicted that it could take between two to four years before Ireland fully recovers from the recession.

Gates said: “It could be the short end of that time frame if the euro zone recovers.

“As you’ve had to make cuts and trade-offs, slowly but surely those strengths are showing through compared to other countries.

“Ireland really has a lot of strengths. Austerity is tough but eventually it will come to an end.”

Regarded as a major supporter of Ireland since he established a Microsoft presence in Dublin in 1985, Gates was quick to praise the Irish workforce.

He added: “We came here because there were a lot of smart people available.

“There had been pressure to locate in Scotland or Switzerland, but many factors came together, most notably the ability to get people into Ireland who had foreign language skills.”

After visiting Ireland last week, he insisted the decision was not just about the corporation tax rate.

He added: “Ireland has taken a one-time gigantic hit as a percentage of GDP to bailout the banks but the basic quality of the workforce and the attractiveness as a place to live are still shining through.”

Gates identified third-level education as the best way for a country to be competitive and praised Chuck Feeney’s investment in Irish education.

The report states that, despite having already given away $28 billion of his personal fortune, Gates is still worth $64.3 billion.

He was surpassed in wealth by the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim recently but said: “I would still have that problem of being the richest man in the world had I not given money away.

“I’m solving that problem as fast as I can.”

Gates also told RTE that progress on meeting the UN Millennium Goals had been accelerating.

He said: “Reducing abject poverty by half is well ahead of schedule and childhood death rates have been halved.”