From the 1990s the Irish economy underwent changes so rapid and widespread that they were unlike those in almost any another country in the world. In the 1950s some questioned whether Ireland was capable of governing itself. In the 1980s, though it was not a third world country, arguments could be made that it was firmly in the second world, and that only its geographic position in western Europe and the high expectations of its population made it usually described as first world. With Portugal it was among the poorest countries in western Europe. However by the turn of the twenty-first century Ireland had overtaken most other countries in terms of wealth, having achieved remarkably strong and consistent productivity growth. Ireland became the stuff of legend and economists and policy makers flocked to Ireland to praise it and study what it had achieved. Given that achieving growth is the Holy Grail for nearly every poor country, Ireland was held up as a paragon of good economic management.
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