At a time when many politicians still like to denigrate everything about the public sector, it is worth looking across the Irish Sea to observe a state institution that plays a key role in a mixed economy. Even during the last few terrible years of post-crash bailout, Ireland's Industrial Development Agency continued to create thousands of hi-tech posts by attracting more technology-driven corporations to the country. Established in 1949, the IDA has created 152,000 jobs, with one in seven of the Republic's workforce employed by foreign multinationals. Here is an organisation with only 254 public servants which has arguably done more to transform the Irish economy than the financial alchemists in the now shattered banking sector who lent so recklessly in the boom years. Compared to the swaggering masters-of-the-finance-universe such as those in the now defunct and disgraced Anglo Irish Bank , the IDA's public servants worked quietly in the background, crossing continents, persuading global executives that Ireland had the educated workforce and the strategic gateway into the European market. Of course they were bolstered by the Republic's 12.5% corporation tax. But it would be unfair to conclude that the tax alone powered the IDA's success in attracting foreign direct investment, making Ireland one of the most open economies in the world. The small, dedicated army of economic diplomats in the IDA have proved that the state still has a vital role to play even in austere times.
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