It may make for gloomy reading in most European capitals, but the EC’s Winter 2021 Economic Forecast should raise a few smiles in Dublin, even if they are a bit tired and thin. Thanks largely to its medical and pharmaceutical exports, Ireland’s GDP will, according to Brussels, expand by 3.4% and 3.5% in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
According to the Central Bank of Ireland’s latest Quarterly Bulletin, pharmaceuticals accounted for 62% of the goods sold abroad by the Republic in the first nine months of 2020, thanks to sales of high-end drugs such as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo cancer treatment. Multinational subsidiaries in the Republic produce five of the world’s 15 top-selling pharmaceuticals and its life sciences sector is fast becoming a force in its own right. Just last week, for instance, the Dublin-based Jazz Pharmaceuticals paid $7.2bn for the UK’s GW Pharmaceuticals, whose proprietary Epidiolex multiple sclerosis treatment is the first cannabis plant derivative to have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
In 2020, Ireland’s economy recorded a growth of 3% which was in sharp contrast to an aggregate contraction across the EU of 6.8% and dramatic drops of 11% in Spain and 10% in Greece. Although the Republic was the only EU economy to register growth in 2020, Lithuania (-0.9%) came close. The governments of Poland (-2.8%), Estonia and Sweden (both -2/9%) could be excused for feeling they have survived relatively unscathed.
The Winter 2021 report predicts that all EU member states will return to economic growth this year, but warns of strong risks and uncertainties depending on the success of vaccination campaigns and whether resistant strains of COVID-19 emerge. “We remain in the painful grip of the pandemic, its social and economic consequences all too evident,” said economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni. “Yet there is, at last, light at the end of the tunnel. As increasing numbers are vaccinated over the coming months, an easing of containment measures should allow for a strengthening rebound over the spring and summer.”