Everything is relative; the least bad is still bad. Ireland can be rightly proud of the collective effort that has meant, to this point, we have effectively managed the spread of COVID-19 within our borders. Certainly, we have fared better than the UK, the US and other EU member states such as Italy, France and Spain who all continue to struggle to control the virus and deal with its consequences.
However, the UK is our closest neighbour and biggest trading partner, the US is our aspirational touchstone and, as the European headquarters for many of the Silicon Valley behemoths, the increasingly influential bedrock for our future plans, and the EU is the mast to which we’ve nailed our colours to ensure relevance and influence on the world stage. Unfortunately, this means the more they continue to sneeze, the worse our cold gets.
Beyond this pandemic the spectre of Brexit, the skittish, introverted nature of the leadership of some of these key allies and the fractious, divisionary politics this has inspired means the medium-term prospects for our economy remain concerning.
As a counter, the Programme for Government laid out by the potential incoming administration offers a promising approach to managing our recovery. However, the key word here is “potential” and the prospect of another election cycle should this fragile, untested alliance fail is yet another unwelcome what if…
Socially, Ireland is in a cautiously optimistic place, so much so that the present government is confident enough to accelerate its phased plan to ease lockdown restrictions and reopen the country for business. Economically, we have a long way to go. The CSO estimates GDP growth rate at -12% for this quarter and -3.5% in 12 months time, a level worse than the crash of 2008; latest ISME numbers for business confidence and KBC/ESRI for consumer confidence also show record lows.
Hopefully we are through the worst and now we must pull together to begin our recovery.