Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor has welcomed the National Competitiveness Council’s Report benchmarking Ireland & UK competitiveness, which she says will help inform Ireland’s ongoing response to the economic challenge posed by Brexit.
The report identifies a range of priority areas which will require policy responses in the short, medium and long term to safeguard Ireland’s national competitiveness.
“The Council’s report provides a timely reminder of Ireland’s strengths, which need to be protected and enhanced, and also of areas where we need to remain vigilant and accelerate progress on addressing competitiveness gaps with the UK so as to ensure job creation across all regions,” commented Minister Mitchell O’Connor.
While the Council advises against any narrowing of the tax base which would leave Ireland exposed and says it must be ensured that the tax system supports and rewards employment, enterprise, investment and innovation it has commended the Government’s efforts in bringing fiscal stability and improved performance, describing it as ‘exceptional’.
The 2017Action Plan for Job sets out an ambitious target for Ireland to achieve a top 5 global competitiveness ranking based on the IMD Competitiveness Scorecard by 2020.
The challenges posed by Brexit provide urgent impetus to pursue policies that enhance our competitiveness performance. We have already begun steps to address this, prioritising investment to improve the availability and quality of infrastructure as part of the Review of the Capital Plan and the forthcoming National Planning Framework.
The report finds that a skilled labour force must be the key emphasis for retaining and winning mobile investment and the growth of a cohort of internationally-trading indigenous companies. We are continuing to invest in skills development under the National Skills Strategy.
We are enhancing access to competitively priced sources of finance for growth to facilitate businesses to establish and grow, including non-bank financing sources and increasing public investment in R&D to enhance Ireland’s innovation performance.
The Minister says her Department and the Government are very conscious of the need for a sustained focus on competitiveness and, ahead of the report, had already set out 20 actions in the Action Plan for Jobs to ensure we are prepared for the immediate and more medium term impacts of Brexit. “Through the reforms set out in the 2017 Action Plan for Jobs, my Department and others are working to improve the ease of doing business, reduce the administrative burden by putting transactions on-line, enhance our cost competitiveness such as addressing insurance costs, increase innovation capacity and productivity and drive greater efficiencies across the enterprise base.”
The Minister continued: “My Department is also increasing resources for Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to increase the competitiveness of our indigenous enterprise base and enhance our attractiveness as a location for FDI relative to the UK. We have increased resources for the enterprise development agencies. Enterprise Ireland has published its new strategy for the period to 2020 while IDA Ireland is undertaking a progress review of its five year strategy. We are undertaking a review of our own Government enterprise policy Enterprise 2025. We are examining the sector-by-sector implications of the UK leaving the Single Market. Work is underway on possible future supports for SMEs that could be impacted by Brexit. And as a follow-on to the Government’s new Trade and Investment Strategy, Ireland Connected, launched in March, Enterprise Ireland will shortly publish its Eurozone Strategy.”
“So much has been done already to respond to the challenge of Brexit and we will continue to implement improvements to policies that were identified as priority areas in the report. Competitiveness is key to success in international markets and helping businesses to improve their competitiveness will remain a key focus for my Department and the Government”, commented Minister Mitchell O’Connor.