What kind of message is Ireland sending to other bailout countries?
The message is: you've got to correct your position. You can always have growth-friendly fiscal consolidation. We have taken 28 billion euros out of the Irish economy, by the way of tax rises and expenditure cuts. Even with that we are seeing growth. You can take money out and grow the economy, assuming you get the fundamentals right.
Is Ireland now the poster boy for austerity?
That's a matter for other people to judge. Our task, by coming into government in 2011, was to get the Irish economy to a better place, get us out of the bailout program and stand on our own two feet again.Business is business;
What's the state of the Irish economy?
We are a nimble economy. We are export-oriented, unlike possibly other Mediterranean economies. We do not have a big public sector.
How do you support small and medium-sized enterprises?
The key thing is to get lending going again. After the collapse of the banking system, we have set very clear targets for the Irish banking sector to deliver money to small and medium-sized businesses. We have established the Credit Review Office. When a loan for your business is being turned down, the business can appeal that. In 60 percent of the appeals to the CRO, they have overturned the decision in favor of the applicant and against the bank.
Also, we have some very attractive tax breaks to help those businesses. That means that if they take on someone from the live register, and give that person a job, that person will effectively have a tax holiday for two years.
Even if you don't have any money to throw around to stimulate the economy, you can still use the tax system as a means to help SMEs to grow and prosper.Now there's guy we wish Barack Obama would shake hands with.