I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 103 and 104 together.
The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) monitors business cost and competitiveness issues facing the Irish economy and offers recommendations on policy actions required to enhance Ireland's position in these areas. The NCC's "Costs of Doing Business in Ireland" report, last published in June 2011, benchmarks business costs against a range of Ireland's key competitor countries. The report provides an analysis of costs at sectoral level.
The NCC will shortly publish "Ireland's Competitiveness Scorecard 2012" which analyses Ireland's international competitiveness using 127 individual indicators. These range from measures such as economic growth and quality of life, to the policy inputs that will drive future competitiveness, such as the education system and the delivery of infrastructure.
In its recent reports, the NCC has identified an improvement in Ireland's competitiveness. This improvement is reflected in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2012, published in May by the Institute for Management Development (IMD). Of the 59 countries benchmarked by the IMD for 2012, Ireland ranked 20th overall, up from 24th in 2011, and 8th out of the 24 EU countries featured. Ireland was ranked first in a number of areas, including in relation to investment incentives, skilled labour and attitudes towards globalisation.
However, more must be done to ensure that the improvements we have achieved are structural in nature and sustained in the longer-term. We need to tackle the remaining areas where we can best support a competitive environment which will support viable and sustainable jobs. Areas which have been identified as important in this regard include access to finance, business costs, the alignment of skills with enterprise needs, and the reduction in administrative burdens on business.
The Action Plan for Jobs is addressing these, and other, issues which will support Ireland's competitiveness.