A recession or a crisis?

There is a real difficulty in starting a business in Ireland right now. The almost complete sense of hopelessness that persists across all sectors of society. There is a sense that the answer is no! No matter what the question is. This comes from the top, the lack of leadership, particularly from the government. This filters down to all levels and like rabbits caught in the headlights, we can do nothing until we hit the bottom and no one knows if this has happened  or when it might happen.

Allied to this probelm is the belief that the recovery will happen when the house prices start going up again, when contracts are re-issued, when more new houses are built. This betrays the thinking that we are currently in a recession not in a crisis. A crisis is where everyone understands that we are not going back to the way it was. That whatever type of recovery comes our way it will be based on doing things differently and not just increasing economic activity and trying to get back to the good old days.

The great thing about a crisis is the opportunity for change that it brings. It can foster more self belief than a recession and can be a lot more action oriented, focussing on coming up with more imaginative solutions and setting about solving our own problems. Despite the rhetoric there is little sign that a real appetite for change has occurred in the country. At a recent talk by the ESB about sustainability, the spokesperson was depressingly devoid of any new ways of doing business, just issuing platitudes instead about long term strategies and electric cars. Nothing about micro-generation, community based renewables, radical alternatives.

As an export oriented country which sees its future based on increasing exports, there is a depressing lack of planning to meet the changing needs of theses markets. The 2007 government strategy for the Education for Sustainable Development was never adopted. No sustainaiblity education and training of our export companies has taken place, so practically no Irish producers understand how to meet the ever increasing demands of the multi-national corporations for sppliers to prove their sustainability credentials.

A nation in crisis would reach out for radical changes and would not try to sit it out, to wait and see, to forlornly hope. Once the shock of a crisis is accepted, there can be a release of energy, innovation and even enthusiasm to make the necessary changes to build for a better future. It is very hard to see where that type of leadership is being displayed in Ireland at present.  We now see all too clearly that we wasted the opportunities of the boom years, unfortunately it looks like we are going to waste a good crisis also!

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