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New Media Investor's Dominic Dudley asks whether offshore locations are attractive.

The Bermudan Government was in town at the end of January trying to persuade UK e-commerce firms to use the island as a base. While it is difficult to gauge the success of such events in the immediate aftermath, it does highlight the continuing battle the UK faces in both holding on to its existing e-commerce companies and attracting new ones.

The Professional Contractors Group (PCG), chairman Gareth Williams has written to Tony Blair asserting: 'Many of the most qualified technologists in the UK are leaving these shores. It is unthinkable that the UK can have any position in the knowledge-based economy when the best of our best are taking their skills overseas.'

It is not just exotic off-shore destinations such as Bermuda that firms relocate to. A PCG survey found that Germany, the Netherlands and the US are favoured destinations for contractors departing the UK.

The Irish government has been active in supporting e-commerce and attracting outside firms. Legislation passed by the Irish Parliament (the Electronics Commerce Act 2000) just before the RIP was enacted in this country, put in place a far more open framework than the UK enjoys.

The Irish Development Authority (IDA), claims that some 1,200 firms, employing 116,000 staff, have set up operations in the country, the largest share coming from the US. As well as Intel, Dell and Gateway, it also enticed MediaLab to set up a European arm in Dublin.

The Irish Government's together with the EU, is pumping e75m (£48m) into a DSL network through its National Development Plan. This will support 13 projects by seven firms over the next two years.

PricewaterhouseCooper's January 2001 edition of its European Economic Outlook, found that: 'Ireland, Finland and Sweden rank highest in the EU in terms of the current and potential future strength of their information and communication technology sectors.'

It is a constant effort to ensure a country remains attractive to businesses, but also retains a decent reputation: betting and pornography are shunned by Bermuda in an effort to differentiate it from some of its Caribbean near-neighbours.

Jennifer Smith, the Premier of Bermuda, described the international attention her country gets as being 'somewhat like an insect under a microscope'. Maybe it would help if the UK felt under similar pressure.

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Published 9 February, 2001 by NMA Staff

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