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Saturday 10 December 2016

Ireland a world beater when it comes to the cost of living

Published 09/10/2016 | 02:30

Rents are at the highest level they have ever been at, due to the collapse of the property market.
Rents are at the highest level they have ever been at, due to the collapse of the property market.

Never mind the Budget. Whatever small gains it delivers will pale into insignificance compared with some of the long-standing structural issues that mean our cost of living is sky high.

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The small nature of our economy, poor levels of competition, lax regulation, high taxation and the power of vested interests combine to ensure that householders often get very poor value for money.

We have one of the highest standard value added tax rates in the world. At 23pc, our standard VAT rate is a fifth higher than the international average. A high VAT rate pushes up the cost of shopping.

It applies to a huge range of goods and services, including baby powder, telephone bills, detergents, non-oral medicines, car parts and IT equipment.

And high taxes are the reason Ireland has the highest alcohol prices in the EU.

Diesel and petrol are expensive in this country because 60pc of the costs of these key fuels are made up of tax. Drivers get short-changed in all sorts of ways. Insurance policies are now four times higher than the EU average, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Motor tax and the other charges levied on motorists raised close to €5bn last year, according to figures obtained by Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath. Despite this, spending on roads has gone down.

When it comes to legal services, Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in the world, according to the World Bank. Legal service costs have a significant knock-on effect on the cost of most things, from insurance to the cost of a whole host of other services. It is one of the reasons Ireland and the US jointly have the highest childcare costs in the western world.

Medicines in this country are multiples of what they cost elsewhere in the EU, never mind up the road in the North. Blame high wholesale prices, pharmacists' margins and some GPs prescribing the most expensive pharmaceutical product.

Rents are at the highest level they have ever been at, due to the collapse of the property market. That market failure and the addiction of the State to high taxes means few residential properties are being built, making it hard for people to buy homes.

In 10 minutes I was able to list a dozen items that are punitively expensive in this country.

Also on the list are some of the highest variable mortgage rates in the Eurozone, energy costs, public transport fares and day-to-day banking.

No wonder the cost of living here is the fifth-highest in Europe even though inflation has been muted for ages now.

Sunday Indo Business

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