Richard Bruton says Ireland becoming more economically competitive

Minister challenges Fianna Fáil assertion about high costs

Ireland's international economic competitiveness had improved significantly in recent years, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton told the Dáil. He said it had gone from 24th to 15th and from 29th to 25th in different reports.

"If one looks at the harmonised index of competitiveness, which is tracked by the Central Bank, we have shown significant improvements in our cost position and that is reflected by the surveys of the National Competitiveness Council, " Mr Bruton said.

Fianna Fáil spokesman Dara Calleary said the council had revealed in a report last April that diesel prices in Ireland were 7 per cent more expensive than in the euro area, while Ireland's electricity costs were the fifth most expensive. Landfill gate fees were also the fifth most expensive of the 10 countries surveyed. Mr Calleary said Ireland's loan rates were 31 per cent higher than in most of the euro area.

Electricity costs were still very out of sync with those in the euro area, he said. "Even allowing for our island location, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is still the main shareholder in the ESB, so the Government has a role to play. It is the main shareholder in the main banks and so the Government has a role to play."


Mr Bruton said that on the harmonised index of prices across Europe, Ireland's increase was 1.2 per cent in the past 12 months. "That is among the lowest in the EU," he said. "They are higher in Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Portugal and Finland. "

He said Ireland was controlling administrative costs more effectively than other European countries, but there were areas where there was a need to attend to competitiveness pressures. The focus on electricity had to be on controllable costs because some elements of electricity pricing were beyond the control of electricity companies as they were dictated by international fuel prices.

“There are areas such as property, unit labour costs and professional services where we are making improvements,” Mr Bruton added. The Government would take on board several recommendations by made the National Competitiveness Council in its action plan for jobs.

Mr Calleary said the council had been very straight on costs. He asked if the council was "as useful'' as the Fiscal Advisory Council or an "expensive bauble taken out for the visitors and put back in the press when they left".

Mr Bruton said Mr Calleary was being very selective in his quotes, adding that Ireland had improved compared with its international competitors. and had done better than its competitors on administrative prices.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times