Aidan Regan: First step in debate on foreign direct investment is to agree on what it is

Until we have publicly accessible measurements that clearly distinguish between real and phantom FDI, we can‘t reliably assess the productivity of the multinational sector or its benefit to the domestic economy

Lorries at the Port of Dover in Kent, where traffic is returning to normal levels after a quiet start to the year: FDI used to be able to be counted in tangible good like these but it’s harder to measure intangible capital such as patents and algorithms Picture: PA

There are typically two camps when it comes to debating the effects of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ireland.

One thinks that foreign-owned multinational enterprises (MNEs) are only here to dodge taxes, particularly those in big tech and pharma, and that the state has been captured by their business interests.

The other thinks that US multinational enterprises are deeply embedded in the Irish economy with positive spillover effects, and anyone who criticises these multinational sectors, ...