Expensive Ireland lags behind competitors - report

Ireland is now the joint most expensive country in the eurozone with one of the highest inflation rates, it was announced today.

The Annual Competitiveness Report report compares Ireland's performance with 15 other advanced countries and makes recommendations to the Dublin government on how to improve policy.

As well as being the joint most expensive for consumer goods and services along with Finland, Ireland ranks fourth most expensive out of 16 for insurance premiums and third most expensive out of nine for industrial electricity costs.

The report shows that Ireland has one of the lowest levels of domestic competition.

The NCC blamed the poor performance on the lack of consumer power and minimal rivalry between local firms.

``Ireland is unique in the EU for not having fines for breaching competition law,'' said Mr Burgess, calling on the Government to prioritise consumer interests.

The 26 Counties ranked one of the lowest in all aspects of general infrastructure.

``We are very much at the bottom of the scale,'' warned the NCC's Annette Hughes.

``When you look at Ireland you do not see a pretty picture.

``There should be a specialist body and a High Court judge which specifically deal with infrastructure projects and planning appeals.''

Ireland also has the lowest broadband internet take-up and ranks second from bottom for broadband access.

Mr Burgess said it was an area in which Ireland was in ``very bad shape''.

Another area of concern was education, where the report outlines ``unacceptably high levels'' of students leaving school before their education is completed.

The NCC said a wider breadth of options should be available to school leavers and there should be more investment in university research projects.

``Competitiveness and social progress are two sides of the same coin,'' said Mr Burgess.

``It is vital that competitiveness is kept on the agenda. Ireland cannot be left behind.''

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