These days, Greece is an economic disaster area – but it’s not alone. Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland are also suffering from the same EU financial indigestion.
A few years ago, the booming Irish economy was the envy of Europe. It earned the nickname “the Celtic Tiger” – and for good reason. However, times have changed.
Today, Ireland’s national economy is floundering. The Irish are living through what some regard as the greatest national crisis since the 1916 Easter Uprising against British rule. Then, the issue was Irish national sovereignty, now it’s fiscal and financial sovereignty.
Celtic Tiger’s Problems Create Bargains
But along with those problems comes a great opportunity – both in terms of investment and the possibility of holding an Irish passport – one of the most coveted passports in the world.
Like many countries, Ireland was hit hard in the global economic downturn. Between the beginning of the crisis and the end of 2010, Ireland’s GDP had contracted by 14% and unemployment levels surged to 14%, where they remain.
However, before 2008, Irish property prices had skyrocketed more rapidly than in any other developed economy in the world.
Since that 2007 peak, average house prices have plunged 47%. But that government figure may be a serious underestimate. Ronan McMahon of Pathfinder, an Irish real estate expert, says he has seen declines of as much as 90%. There has been virtually no activity in the Irish property market since 2007 and prices continue to fall, with no bottom in sight.
In an effort to save its faltering banks, the government set up the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), now dubbed by the Irish people as the “Bad Bank.”
NAMA took over an estimated $100 billion in troubled commercial property and development loans from six major financial institutions. This “Bad Bank” now controls more than 10,000 foreclosed properties, including residential, commercial, resort and hotels, development land and even pubs.
But, so far, NAMA has offered very few of these properties for sale, casting a long shadow of unsold inventory over an already brutalized market.
And, so, we come to the creation of an opportunity for great bargains. With the Irish economy’s continued troubles, NAMA is under pressure to sell off its remaining inventory soon, which means investors can pick up some real bargains. A list of available properties can be obtained from NAMA on their website.
Become an Irish Citizen
The Irish government has also started a new program to attract both money and wealthy individuals from outside the EU. The program offers special immediate residence visas to foreign individuals willing to invest in Ireland.
This investment can eventually lead to full citizenship, and Irish citizenship opens the door to full personal and commercial access to all 27 countries in the European Union.
Under the new program, potential investor immigrants have these choices (all numbers are required minimums):
• Make a one-time payment of €500,000 ($666,000) to a public project benefiting the arts, sports, health or education.
• Make a €2 million ($2.7 million) investment in a low interest immigrant investor bond. The investment is to be held for a minimum of five years. The bond cannot be traded but must be held to maturity.
• Invest €1 million ($1.3 million) in venture capital funding in an Irish business for a minimum of three years.
• Make a €1 million mixed investment in 50% property and 50% government securities. Special consideration may be given to those purchasing property owned by the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). In such cases, a single €1m investment in property may be sufficient.
There is a separate program is for foreigners with entrepreneurial ability who wish to start a business in an innovation area of the economy with funding of at least €75,000 (US$99,000). They will be given a two-year residence period for the purposes of developing the business.
Even if you don’t want to invest in the new visa program, you may be eligible for an official Irish passport if your parents or grandparents had Irish citizenship.
The Irish passport is one of the most sought-after travel documents in the world. Remarkably, with a resident population of only 4.7 million, Ireland has many millions of current passports in worldwide circulation.
Complete information about obtaining residence and citizenship in Ireland is available from the official Irish Citizens Information Board website. Tel: 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm).
Now is the time to invest in the “Celtic Tiger.”
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