Thursday, 12 October 2017
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
55. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if her attention has been drawn to emerging trading or competitive disadvantages for SMEs here in comparison to other locations throughout the EU and the UK; the extent to which these issues will be addressed in the short and medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43335/17]
Competitiveness is integral to exports, jobs growth and as a means of achieving sustainable improvements in living standards. Improving competitiveness performance is a core focus of the work of my Department and wider Government policy and is particularly vital in light of the challenges posed by Brexit.
The 2017/2018 Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum in September shows Ireland’s ranking has fallen by 1 place this year. Despite the fall in ranking, Ireland continues to be the 8th most competitive economy in the euro area and the 11th most competitive economy in the EU28. The Institute for Management Development measure of competitiveness ranks Ireland 6th most competitive out of 63 countries and the 2nd most competitive in the Euro area. Ireland’s performance reflects significant and continuous improvements in rankings related to economic performance, business efficiency, government efficiency and infrastructure. It is an important signal to international investors. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report currently ranks Ireland 18th out of 190 economies, ahead of the UK in terms of starting a business and paying taxes but behind in the overall rankings.
Most importantly, our improved competitiveness is reflected in strong employment growth across sectors and regions. The strong performance of clients supported by the enterprise agencies in winning exports, market share and job creation in the face of intense global competition is to be commended and reflects the competitiveness of the environment in which to do business in Ireland.
Recent reports by the National Competitiveness Council have highlighted the need to continually enhance competitiveness performance. I share the Council’s view that to further improve competitiveness we must preserve fiscal sustainability, maximise investment in infrastructure and talent, maintain cost competitiveness, and drive innovation and productivity across all economic sectors. Global uncertainty, and Brexit in particular, has underlined the importance of building competitive advantage, generating an uplift in enterprise export competitiveness and continuing to harness the benefits from trade and the Single Market to secure sustainable jobs and growth. My objective is to ensure the economy is resilient at sectoral and enterprise level to deal with imminent competitiveness challenges and to build further on the progress we have made.
Competitiveness is key to success in international markets and helping businesses to improve their competitiveness will remain a key focus for my Department. We are driving the implementation of our research strategy, Innovation 2020. We are putting more people on the ground in foreign markets to attract investment and helping Irish businesses which export to the UK and helping others diversify into new products and markets. We are introducing a Brexit loan scheme of up to €300 million targeting the short-term capital needs of SMEs, which will allow them to put in place the necessary change to help their business grow into the future.