08 January 2009

Go East. This is what we're gonna do

A quiet day today, especially after yesterday's epic trek to this island's very own Mordor*, spent mostly installing software on my new iMac.

Software installation is a pain, especially with a substandard broadband connection; to download all the relevant updates to the preinstalled software and OS (about 800Mb) took just over two hours, and installing about 70% of Logic Studio (about 30Gb) has taken a further five hours. This has not given me much time today to do anything more exciting than sit at my computer and feed it a seemingly endless supply of install DVDs.

Of course I did get a chance to catch up on some more reading (almost finished 'Omnivore's Dilemma') and employed fewer RSS filters. While reading of the devastating news of Dell's 1,900 redundancies in Limerick (about 2/3 of it's workforce there) I was actually shocked by the following line:
Established in Ireland in 1990, Dell ... is the country’s biggest exporter and second largest company. It accounts for approximately five per cent of Irish GDP and last year contributed €140 million to the economy of the south west in wages alone.
I have written at length already on what a nonsensical measurement I think GDP is, and how its use as a measurement of wellbeing in a country is highly suspect, but all the same to have one company account for 5% of it came as a bit of a shock.

It was also a shock, although much smaller, to realize that there was tech manufacturing of that size still happening in Ireland. Multinationals have no interest in national or regional development, and will always go where wages are cheapest and labour laws are the most relaxed. Now that Poland and the other accession states are in the EU, Ireland is no longer as attractive as a cheap door into the EU, PCs can be 'assembled' in Poland just as easily as Ireland to qualify as products of the EU and avoid import duties, and it was just a matter of time before Dell, Intel and the others started to roll their wagons East.

So what does that leave Ireland with? Call centers and tax breaks.

And once the tax breaks run out, or Obama stops US companies funneling their money through the books of their Irish subsidiaries and availing of our low corporate tax rates, Ebay and Microsoft will suddenly remember that Polish people learn French in college too.


Still not doing so well on the "be less cynical in 2009" plan. Never mind, it's early days yet.

* Once the dark Lord Sauron was defeated, the ring dropped in the fiery depths of Mount Doom, and Frodo and his chums flew first class back to Hobbiton, I wonder did the local authorities in Mordor go on an expansive rebranding exercise, trying to create investment opportunities and attract tourists, putting the recent "Difficulties" behind them? Perhaps they built a new theatre, set up an ice hockey team, launched black taxi tours of the Black Gates, put a giant Ferris wheel beside Barad-dûr or maybe came up with a catchy and inspirational slogan like "Mordor, not as likely to kill you as before".

** In Dell's case Poland will be the destination of choice, though probably for no more than 10 years before the wages rise, government tax breaks run out and the infrastructure in a given African nation*** rises to the point where its economically viable to locate and Michael Dell learns the Polish for "I'm sorry, but I have a duty to my shareholders"

*** Or possibly Mordor, depending on how good their marketing is.



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