Best Little Country

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about Ireland becoming the best little country in the world in which to do business. That, in my opinion, is an error. It translates to me as “Ireland should be the best little country in the world to do business…right now…but feel free to go somewhere else in 10 years”.

I think our priorities are all wrong. Ireland should try and be the best little business in the world. That way we might look at a sustainable future and concentrate less on small wins in the short term. It may even help remove the petty politics and poor decision making which have left us a battered nation.

If one where to examine the issues which plague the country at present then you would have to explore the possibility of treating this little island of ours as a business. Consider the following 3 problem children;

  1. The HSE: The dreaded HSE. In its current form it is not fixable. It is in essence beyond hope. It is that way because it has been allowed to be that way. There is unfortunately an underbelly in the HSE which is happy with the way things are and which has no desire to see the organisation change and evolve in the way it so desperately needs to. Our hospitals are at breaking point. The doctors, nurses, midwives, support medical staff and paramedics are giving their all and are really at the point where they can give very little more. They are doing a wonderful job under very hard working conditions and they are seeing very little return for their investment. Now, the problem is not with the people on the ground doing the job, but the people at the top of the ladder throwing the muck down on them. Think about the HSE like a business. Would it be allowed to continue? Would the current chain of management be allowed to stay in their very well paid jobs? Would the doctrine which dictates every archaic and disastrous decision be allowed to remain?
  2. Irish Water: Where to start. Irish Water, which is State Owned yet seeks no advice or conducts no research before implementing its own decisions is a disaster. It was set up with the one original overriding objective of securing the water supply and infrastructure for said supply for Ireland going into the future. Thus far it seems to have abandoned that idea in lieu of gratuitous perks for its own staff. For unnecessary water meters which will fail before 2030. For laughing yoga retreats for its staff. For unnecessary and costly breaches of data protection. In short, it seems the only future Irish Water has secured is its own. If it were a private entity completely culpable to its shareholders would it be allowed to continue in its current guise? Would it be allowed to abandon its original mission in order to pursue its own interests? Would it be allowed to make mistake after mistake without being gutted and restarted? Would it be allowed to ignore the calls of its shareholders?
  3. Politics: It’s a general one alright, but it is a problem child all the same. Political games and name calling are ruining Ireland. Politicians are far too busy scoring cheap shots off each other to recognise that Ireland is on the cusp of disaster. Its people are desperate. History has taught us that desperate people make desperate decisions. Both World Wars are prime examples of this. Closer to home you need only look at the volunteer ranks of the IRA and how they rapidly grew in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s. In all cases nothing else was working so the people thought they’d listen to the lads who sounded mad a few years ago. While Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour trade tacky and inane insults the people lose their patience. While they deeply analyse each word their opponent utters there are people lying and dying on trolleys in our overwhelmed hospitals. They talk about job creation and skew the unemployment figures while the young people think of emigration and become ever more disillusioned with a system which only talks a talk full of empty promises. If the government was a business entity completely answerable to its shareholders would it be allowed to continue with its current board? Would the shareholders stand for all the broken promises? Would they stand for all the spin talk? Better still, would they really choose the same people to represent them the next time around? The big giant issue with Politics in Ireland is that they are all gathered around the same pot, eating the same meal and singing from the same hymn sheet. One talks job creation while the next talks about creating jobs. Even Lucinda and Eddie have missed the point. Lucinda is the shunned Fine Gael poster girl. Her public views will change to reflect her unemployment fears. The issue with who we have to choose from is that they are all the same underneath. They are just wearing different colour shirts.

I know there may be a certain level of apprehension in relation to the concept of Ireland being thought of as a small business as opposed to a small country. If we all were to be considered as shareholders and stakeholders and not merely voters then maybe we might be able to enact the change we so desperately need. Maybe we might attract the right people to the right positions. What we need are balanced and experienced people with the necessary skill set to truly get Ireland on the road. We need the people who say little and do a lot. We don’t need the same old same old. We don’t need the guy who promises to fix your fence for a vote taking up a seat on Kildare street. We need the people who can cut the dead wood from the problem children and ensure that we can keep this great train of ours on the tracks. The people who I believe can do that are afraid of putting their necks on the line. They are, in my opinion, afraid of the stagnant machine which is the Irish Governmental system. With that in mind, maybe it’s time to stop the train and change tracks? We are acutely afraid of failure. Maybe it’s time our country failed so we could start anew. Iceland failed. Go to Iceland. There is very little to be afraid of there. The Icelandic people hold their heads high. They made the difficult choices and came out the other side all the better.

We didn’t make the difficult choices. We bailed out people who should have been placed on bail awaiting trial. We accepted our politicians are corrupt. We continue to accept they are serving their own needs and do little about changing it. We fear what is different and unknown. The known is slowly killing us, so maybe it’s time to delve into the unknown? At the moment our beautiful little country is formed on a rust ridden Republic and we are merely painting over the rust. When a building is damaged beyond repair you don’t move your family in and hope for the best. You knock it down and start again.

Best Little Country awards are all well and good. The problem with little countries is that they have very little margin for error. A little change for a business invested here will affect massive changes on our people.

A small business now that can grow and adapt. Small businesses have to think about what they’re going to do 20/30 years down the line. Small businesses are not solely obsessed with 4 year time frames. They have to think about keeping their workforce happy. They have to think about delivering results on their promises. They have to worry about the people who support them. They have to worry about keeping the books in order and in the black. Think about the people who have crippled this country with their ill thought out decisions. They had very little to lose. They were still walking away financially secure until the end of their days. They were not accountable for their inept choices and abhorrent behaviour.

A small country run by politicians with a 4 year life span? Seems like small vision leading to limited success. A small country run like a small business. That is a breeding ground for other small businesses and entrepreneurs.

We need to pull ourselves out of this slump and not continue to allow ourselves to be pulled down any longer. It’s much easier said than done but we need to face into the unknown and try something new. We need to find our pride again. We need to find our reason for being. We have gotten used to being stood on. We have paid and we continue to pay for the mistakes of others time and time again. It is time to be brave and start again.

Our future is unwritten. I don’t know about you, but I need a new story.

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