By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — For the first time in 15 years, the Industrial Development Authority recorded a net loss of jobs last year in the foreign companies it backs, according to its annual report, which was published Tuesday.
There were 13,500 new jobs created — down from the record 23,158 in 2000 — but there was also a loss of 17,500 jobs.
The authority said last year had been one of the toughest for attracting inward investment and the net loss of 4,021 jobs had mainly resulted from the impact of the global slowdown in the IT sector.
There are 1,237 IDA supported companies employing 138,000 people. They account for euro 47 billion worth of exports annually and spend euro 14.2 billion in the Irish economy.
The IDA paid out euro 109 million in grants to companies during the year and say the cost per job sustained during 1995-2001 was euro 13,375. The agency negotiated 40 new projects in 2001, both green field developments and expansions.
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Sean Dorgan, the IDA’s chief executive, said a real recovery of jobs growth may not be seen until 2003.
He warned a “Yes” vote in a referendum on the Nice Treaty on EU expansion that is expected in October is crucial for the country’s future.
Ireland voted 54 percent against the treaty in June 2001. It is the only EU country where a constitutional vote is needed to ratify the treaty.
“Business, and especially inward investment, is totally tied to our future in Europe,” Dorgan said. “Because we are relatively small and so trade-dependent, more than any other member state our economic prospects are tied to an intimate and central involvement in the EU.”
Dorgan said leading international companies are currently investing in excess of euro 5 billion in new facilities in Ireland.
“Ireland’s economic prospects depend on a strong, confident and growing Europe,” he said. “The vote on the Nice Treaty will be widely seen by investors and potential investors as indicating the degree of our engagement in the EU, whether we are participating at the heart of its future development or whether we are marginalized.”
Dorgan said another “No” vote would be seen and represented as a withdrawal by Ireland from that European consensus.