Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Phil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
With respect to the Minister of State, I am afraid he has ignored a great deal of the National Competitiveness Council's report. The chairman of the council, Mr. William Burgess, has said that the issue of costs is the major economic challenge the Government faces. Many stealth taxes have been imposed in the past two years. The managing director of Tesco Ireland recently told the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business that waste disposal costs 250% more in Ireland than in the UK. The rate of VAT is 21.5% here but just 17% in the UK. VAT on diesel and other fuel products increased by 1% in the last budget. The regulator in the utilities and energy sector, Mr. Reeves, constantly increases energy prices on the spurious basis that he needs to increase prices to bring about more competition.
Will the Minister of State acknowledge that the Irish economy faces a difficult challenge, in respect of its cost base, as it endeavours to cope with its competitors? What action would the Minister of State recommend the Minister for Finance to take in the budget to address that challenge? Is he studying the Single Market of the European Union to increase competition in various sheltered sectors of the Irish economy and to ensure that customers can benefit from the presence of European companies?