Inside the world of business
Upbeat view of State recovery from global economic forum
THE GOOD news is the Ireland is getting more competitive – at least in the eyes of the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Report. After a downward slide since 2005, Ireland climbed a couple of spots this year to 27th (out of 144 states).
It’s still a far cry from the lofty fifth position the State held back in 2000 as the Celtic Tiger took hold, but it gives some encouragement that recent measures to restore competitiveness to the economy are having some effect.
Our traditionally strong showing in areas like the State’s health and primary education system continues although our ranking did slip two spots to 12th overall. Similarly, the quality of maths and science education at second and third level – where we rank 31st – shows some slippage over recent years in an area that is deemed critical to our future economic and employment prospects.
Three years ago, Ireland was in the top 15 globally in this area.
All this pales though next to the perception of our macroeconomic environment and financial market development.
Measuring the soundness of the Irish banking system, the forum states we are ranked last of the 144 countries surveyed – a group that includes the likes of Haiti, isolated Nepal, war-torn Libya and even our friends in Greece. This despite the crippling bailout of our financial institutions. We fare only slightly better for the macroeconomic environment, languishing in 131st spot.
Still, our troubles in these areas are well known – but other details surprise. Despite the focus on entrepreneurship, Ireland is ranked a lowly 88th for ease of access to venture capital, sandwiched between Trinidad Tobago in 87th and Armenia in 89th, and trailing such innovation powerhouses as Romania, Rwanda and Mauritius.
Clearly, there is some work yet to do.
Little cheer for troubled mortgage holders with debt advisory service
Under the service, any mortgage holders offered long-term deals by the banks to tackle unsustainable home loans can speak to a practising accountant free of charge before deciding to sign the deal.
The banks have agreed to pay for the €250 cost (plus VAT) of one, and possibly two consultations.
However the small print says the accountants cannot advise a consumer on whether they should accept or reject a proposal from the bank or suggest other options.
This is far from ideal for consumers who are under intense financial pressure and will require important independent financial advice on what they should and, indeed, should not do.
The Professional Insurance Brokers Association (Piba), which represents financial advisers, expressed concern yesterday that their Central Bank-regulated members had been excluded in favour of accountants who are self-regulated.
Rachel Doyle, chief operations officer of Piba, wrote to Burton seeking an urgent meeting. She told us that the service was “baffling” as it put lenders “in the lead position over the borrower” when financial advisers were already offering this kind of advisory work.
The association is obviously serving the interests of its members here but it does have a point.