In terms of cost competitiveness, according to the European Commission's Autumn Forecasts published in November 2011, a decline of 3.1 per cent in Irish nominal unit labour costs was forecast for 2011, the most significant decline among euro area Member States. This is in addition to the fact that over the 2009-2010 period, unit labour costs in Ireland fell more than in any other euro area country. With regard to price competitiveness, Ireland had the lowest rate of HICP inflation in the euro area in 2011. This follows on from 2009 and 2010, where prices fell in Ireland but rose in most other euro area Member States.
These improvements in competitiveness are standing to us — figures from the IDA show that a record number of new investments were won in 2011.
It is crucial that the competitiveness gains made in the last number of years be sustained and further gains be made so as to support export growth and underpin the economy's recovery and job creation. With regard to areas where further efforts are required, I would draw the Deputy's attention to the recent National Competitiveness Council report. This notes that competitiveness is improving and that action has been taken, while also recommending a series of additional steps aimed at, inter alia, reducing the cost of doing business and increasing productivity. This report is a useful input and will inform Government thinking and action over the coming months.