Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Question 58: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way she will address the lack of competitiveness in the economy; when she became aware of this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7337/09]
Our immediate policy objectives with regard to competitiveness are to restore confidence and stability in our economy, provide supports to the enterprise sector, restore cost competitiveness, safeguard the significant achievements of recent years and ensure a return to sustainable export growth. Under the Framework for Economic Renewal we are taking a number of measures across Government to address these objectives. At this time I think it is also important to point out that Ireland made significant progress over the past decade in transforming our economy and building fundamental strengths, and so we enter this period of uncertainty from a strong base.
Competitiveness has a number of dimensions and is a very broad policy area. Ireland continues to be a leading country in terms of the attraction of overseas investment. The IBM Global Location Trends Annual Report 2008 in October 2008, ranks Ireland as one of the top performers at 3rd place for attracting R&D investment. The Lisbon Council's "European Jobs and Growth" Monitor as recently as November 2008, ranks Ireland 2nd most competitive economy in Europe in 2008. Educational attainment in Ireland has increased significantly in recent years and Ireland is also making substantial progress in strengthening its research and development capabilities. We also have a substantial and sustained focus on our targeted capital investment programme. To help business cope with the current difficulties we have taken determined action to address the fundamental issue of access to finance for business, by way of the new code of practice for banks linked to the re-capitalisation scheme.
Cost competitiveness is also a particular focus of action. Already there are indicators in our favour with inflation, commodity and other prices falling. With regard to energy costs, I made my views clear in the House a number of weeks ago and I am glad that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has now indicated that he expects that there will be a double-digit reduction in electricity prices before the end of the year. A reduction in energy costs will be highly significant in protecting employment and maintaining business activities.
We are committed to maintain low business taxes and will ensure that our policies keep pace with the way business is changing. The Government recently introduced a Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal, called "Building Ireland's Smart Economy" which sets out a clear roadmap for Ireland's move back to economic growth and prosperity. The Cabinet Committee for Economic Renewal will drive this strategy and we will continue to pursue policies that will build on our strengths, address our weaknesses and ensure that we are well placed to take advantage of the global upturn when it comes.