Ireland named sixth most competitive country in the world

Its highest placing on the prestigious IMD list since 2000...

Ireland named sixth most competitive country in the world

Giuseppe Milo, Flickr

Ireland has enjoyed its best showing in IMD's world competitive rankings since the turn of the century.

The famed business school in Lausanne, Switzerland, placed the country in sixth position this year, up one spot from 2016.

Ireland had fallen as low as 24th in 2011 following the bailout but has been rising strongly since. It was ranked 17th just four years ago.

The positive 2017 placing was attributed to Ireland's recent economic performance, strong and consistent inward investment and a high level of business efficiency.

The survey of 63 countries is seen as one of the most reputable barometers of international competitiveness. It draws on 260 indicators, comprising two-thirds hard data and one-third survey responses from over 6,250 global executives.

Ireland's highest ever ranking is fifth in 2000.

Hong Kong topped the rankings once again in 2017, with Switzerland and Singapore coming second and third respectively.

The US, the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) completed the top 10.

Ireland ranked third in overall business efficiency. Under that heading, our labour productivity, national culture, flexibility and adaptability, ability to attract and retain talents and attitude to globalisation were all unparalleled.

Ireland's economic performance trailed only the US, China and Luxembourg. The country also ranked first in investment incentives and real growth of gross fixed capital formations.

In terms of challenges, Brexit, international currency volatility and a possible slowdown in global growth were cited, while risks associated with tightening ECB monetary policy and infrastructure investments were noted.

When it came to digital competitiveness, Ireland dropped outside the top 20. Its 21st place ranking can be partially blamed on our ongoing rural broadband problems.

Despite IMD's stamp of approval, there our signals coming from closer to home that our future competitiveness could come under threat.

The National Competitiveness Council has made the case that rising property costs could impact the overall economy.

Its new Cost of Doing Business in Ireland report highlights how house prices and rising rent will put pressure on wages, increasing the cost of living and hurting how attractive Ireland is for foreign direct investment.

External forces such as rising energy prices and problems associated with Brexit are also raised as concerns.

Professor Peter Clinch, chairman of the NCC, said:

"Maintaining fiscal sustainability and a broad tax base, supporting structural reform, innovation, and productivity, and growing our enterprise and export base will remain significant immediate challenges.

"The recent appreciation of the euro vis-à-vis sterling and the higher international price of oil provides a timely warning about just how vulnerable Irish firms are to external international shocks.

"Higher international oil prices exert a significant influence on energy and transport prices. This reinforces the importance of prioritising policies and actions that are within Ireland’s control to enhance cost competitiveness."