A lot done, more to do
Good stats are good stats, but where are they coming from?
Blogs | 01 Jun 2012 :
A press release was issued this week that saw Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD welcoming Irelands jump in world competitiveness rankings, from 24th to 20th.
The release detailed how we were ranked number one for "skilled labour and for flexibility and adaptability", number two for "lack of protectionism and for foreign investors", number three for "labour productivity and for exports of commercial services" and fourth overall for "real corporate taxes".
This all sounded terribly impressive and the minister was suitably buoyant.
"The Taoiseach has set the ambition that by 2016 Ireland will be the best small country in the world in which to do business, and the Government has started to implement our plan to deliver on this," said the minister. "Through the Action Plan for Jobs, we are implementing a raft of changes to reduce costs to business, improve access to finance and encourage greater innovation and in the coming months I will be developing a list of areas in which Ireland's performance is lagging internationally and a plan to address this."
"Today's results show that, while there has been a noticeable improvement since 2011, we have a long way to go if we are to deliver on this ambition. I will be working hard, together with my Cabinet colleagues, to deliver real reform across the economy, improve our competitiveness and ensure that we can get jobs and growth back into the economy again".
The news was not all rosy, it must be said, as access to credit was ranked 53rd, representing a drop from 14th in 2008, but an increase of five places on 2011.
Looking at the figures, it sounds as if Ireland is powering its way out of the doldrums and toward some bright new economic future. But then I had a look at the source, as 20th in competitiveness sounded very optimistic and an alarm bell was ringing in the back of my head regarding another competiveness score.
The minster was referring to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2012 from the Institute for Management Development (IMD). Now, that font of all reliable, verified and unquestioned knowledge Wikipedia, says this of IMD:
"International Institute for Management Development is a non-profit business school located in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is widely considered one of the world's pioneers in business education and consistently ranked as top and very elite business school worldwide. Its MBA program has been ranked among the top tier programs in the world."
That's pretty good, as it goes and yet, it is just a business school.
The alarm bell that was ringing in the back of my head started to get a little clearer and I remembered where I had seen such rankings before. It was of course from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and its The Global Competitiveness Report.
Now, the WEF report is one I have been following a lot longer than the IMD one, as I really only heard of the IMD when I read the press release from the minister's office.
The WEF the Global Competitiveness Report for 2011-2012 is available and, to be fair, does not sound quite as good as the earlier quoted work.
The WEF report ranks Ireland 29th overall in global competitiveness, exactly where we were last year but down from 24th in 2009-2010. There are some good scores there, but nothing at all in the top ten, such as:
- Health and primary education 12
- Higher education and training 22
- Goods market efficiency 13
- Labour market efficiency 17
- Technological readiness 17
Major scores in relation to our business landscape are 22nd for business sophistication and innovation at 23rd.
However, the same problems emerge from both studies with macroeconomic conditions being highlighted and access to financing cited as the single biggest business issue, followed by inefficient government bureaucracy.
So, while the WEF is probably a safer indication of conditions than the IMD report, in fairness to both, for such a small country on the periphery of larger economies such as the UK, France and Germany, and battling the Nordics and others, any score that we have in the top 20 is good, and anything beyond that is promising.
The "a lot done, more to do" attitude of the minister is understandable but, in the humble opinion of this hack, there's not a lot to crow about yet and the emphasis should be far more on the latter part of that much used phrase, than the former, irrespective of the source of such assessments.