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American Chamber president warns of threat to Ireland’s competitiveness

Eamonn Sinnott says competitiveness should not be allowed to slip back as economy recovers

Eamonn Sinnott, the new president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland

Rising healthcare and property costs could threaten Ireland’s competitiveness, the new president of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland has warned.

Eamonn Sinnott said: “The country’s competitiveness has improved over the last few years as a result of the adjustments brought about by the downturn, and the focus now must be on maintaining that competitiveness and not allowing it to slip back over time as the economy recovers.”

He said the increase in healthcare costs over the past decade is in excess of 200 per cent, adding that US companies account for more than 10 per cent of the healthcare spend in Ireland, and at some point the huge rise in costs will become a tipping point.

“Or the property prices increase, a 15 per cent increase in residential property prices. While some regard it as positive, the first thing that companies that are trying to expand here in Ireland need to know is that their workforce can get places to live.

“The point is not that we have to be number one but we have to watch the trend and make sure that we don’t allow that competitive position to erode.”

Mr Sinnott said Ireland’s R&D spend as a percentage of GDP (1.58 per cent) currently lags behind many of the countries with which it competes for investment, and that of the EU average (2.02 per cent).

He said this represented “a missed opportunity” adding that there was clearly scope for improvement.

Mr Sinnott, who is also the general manager of Intel in Ireland, said a recent bomb scare at the company’s Co Kildare plant was “a bit of a nonevent”, adding that there was no intelligence to indicate an increased security threat against American companies in Ireland.

On Tuesday, January 13th, a man phoned the Garda control and command centre claiming he was from Islamic State and saying there were 10 bombs at the US computer chip maker’s Leixlip plant.

“What happened last week was really a strange event, a bit of a non-event, we were back in operation within two hours,” Mr Sinnott said.

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