Bad infrastructure hurts Ireland's competitiveness


Robust institutions, strong social capital and a labour market characterised by workers' rights and a high level of co-operation between workers and employers are key to Ireland's global competitiveness.

Ireland ranks 23 in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index out of 140 economies, unchanged from a year earlier.

A highly skilled workforce and good institutions are seen as key positives, but weaknesses include the banks and poor physical infrastructure - including road, rail and broadband.

The report's Global Competitiveness Index finds Singapore is the most 'future-ready' economy, but it trails Sweden when it comes to having a digitally skilled workforce. Switzerland, meanwhile, has the most effective labour for reskilling and retraining policies and US companies are the fastest when it comes to embracing change. Ireland scored well on business dynamism and was ranked 10th.

The country came in for sustained criticism at the WEF's Davos meeting where elites from banking, finance and industry rub shoulders with political leaders and a smattering of activists.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz told the gathering in the Swiss Alps that Ireland's tax code was tantamount to "stealing revenue from all the other countries of Europe", saying: "The big case and everybody knows was the Apple case. €13bn that were generated all over Europe that were funnelled into Ireland" - an accusation Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe was forced to refute on a panel.

The WEF, which has often been targeted by anti-globalisation campaigners for being an exclusive club for a small, powerful elite dubbed 'Davos Man', has now embraced redistributive policies and social safety nets as well as more progressive taxation aimed at addressing inequality and now argues there is inherent trade-off between competitiveness and inclusion.

It notes that in the 10 most competitive economies work hours are on average five hours less a week than for workers in the three Brics economies - Brazil, India and Russia.

The UK fell two places in the global rankings and was sandwiched between Hong Kong and Sweden in 8th place. It may have further to fall, the WEF warned.

"Brexit, the event will, by definition, weaken the United Kingdom's markets component as integration with the EU is rolled back," it said.

ICT adoption is also one of the weakest pillars, ranking 28th globally versus Ireland's 41st. The two countries also share failings in internet connection. The UK ranks 75th in provision of fibre to the home with Ireland coming in 82nd.

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