I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. Notwithstanding our strong economic growth, addressing Ireland's cost competitiveness remains a key economic priority for Government and we continue to monitor Ireland's cost base and analyse the factors that are crucial to improving our cost competitiveness.
Our competitiveness is reflected in a range of economic metrics such as high economic growth, the performance of the labour market across sectors and regions, strong export figures and our productivity figures. For example, the labour force survey shows there was a 2% increase in employment in the year to quarter 2 2019, bringing total employment to 2.3 million, the highest number on record. In quarter 2 2019, there were 130,800 people unemployed, a decrease of 9.4% compared to the previous year. However, our strong competitiveness position, with the IMD ranking Ireland at seventh out of 63 economies, cannot be taken for granted. There is no room for complacency, which is why improving Ireland’s competitiveness position is a key priority for this Government.
The Cost of Doing Business in Ireland 2019 report and the Ireland's competitiveness scorecard 2019, published by the National Competitiveness Council, NCC, found that while Ireland is a high-cost economy and the fifth most expensive in the EU, the cost base for enterprise is internationally competitive across a range of metrics, for example, the cost of starting a business, communications costs and average income taxes.
The 2020 budget, announced by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday, aims at protecting the economy’s resilience in the face of Brexit and other international uncertainties. The €650 million contingency provision for a no-deal Brexit will enable me to introduce a number of specific measures to support companies to remain viable and competitive. The budget continues this Government’s careful, stability-oriented approach to the management of the public finances, which is essential to preserve the economy’s competitiveness. In line with Project Ireland 2040, the budget provided for significant increase in capital investment which will support the expansion of our infrastructure across key areas, thus supporting the economy’s resilience and competitiveness.