Dáil Éireann - Volume 614 - 07 February, 2006

Written Answers. - Economic Competitiveness.

  128. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to ensure the competitiveness of Irish industry, with particular reference to escalating costs and the tendency for industry to relocate to lower cost economies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4047/06]

  Mr. Martin: Ireland’s unprecedented period of economic prosperity has led to the creation of a modern, advanced European economy typified by all the associated advantages of high incomes, employment growth and rising living standards. Our future prosperity and success is dependent on our ability to develop, attract and retain higher value added operations that are characterised by both high productivity output and higher returns to labour.

Despite increasing global competitive pressures, the latest quarterly national household survey from the Central Statistics Office shows that the number of persons in employment grew by 96,200 in the year to reach almost 1.99 million in the third quarter of 2005. Moreover, we have seen employment increase in most sectors of the economy, not only construction, with financial and business services showing strong growth. These facts demonstrate that we remain a competitive economy for both foreign and indigenous enterprise and retain a strong capacity to generate and sustain employment while managing the transition to a more knowledge and services oriented economy.

To further expedite this transition my Department and its agencies are encouraging enterprises to undertake increased levels of investment in research, to make more and better use of technology, to invest in training, and to encourage more innovation across all sectors of the economy. This will help firms produce improved value added products and services. In the longer term this will provide longer lasting and higher quality jobs.

Sustaining Ireland’s competitiveness continues to be a key priority for this Government. It is monitored in particular through the work and advice of the National Competitiveness Council. The Government’s response is manifested in numerous ways, most recently as evidenced by the fact that for the third consecutive year it implemented a non-inflationary budget in budget 2006. This displays the Government’s prudent fiscal management of the economy at a time of ever increasing global competitiveness pressures.

In my Department I have assigned more resources and given more powers to the Compe[154] tition Authority. I am currently steering legislation through the Oireachtas to repeal the groceries order. Furthermore, I have established the enterprise advisory group, which is charged with the overseeing the implementation of the recommendations of the enterprise strategy group, ESG. The group’s work is progressing well and it will submit its first periodic report to Government on the pace and progress in implementing the ESG’s recommendations by June.

Another fundamental element to safeguarding our competitiveness will be the successful completion of the present partnership talks. These talks will strongly influence our economic progress over the next few years. They will be crucial in setting wage increases at sustainable levels, which will both simultaneously protect our competitiveness and improve our living standards.

Question No. 129 answered with Question No. 122.