Confidence in economy dips as bosses demand Brexit strategy
Brexit's chill wind is whistling through the corridors of Ireland's businesses, with the number of chief executives here who see blue skies ahead for the Irish economy having fallen significantly over the past year, according to a new report from accountancy and advisory firm PwC.
Just 58pc of the 200 company bosses surveyed by PwC now have a favourable outlook for the Irish economy - down from 71pc this time last year.
And most of the country's leading business men and women believe high personal taxes, rising wage costs and a lack of affordable housing are key challenges for their companies.
The sharp drop in overall economic confidence also coincides with 68pc of executives demanding that the Government make developing a clear national strategy to deal with Brexit a top priority.
PwC managing partner Feargal O'Rourke said confidence levels were only "down slightly" on last year's CEO Pulse survey.
"This is hardly surprising given concerns relating to Brexit and other geopolitical factors," he said.
He pointed out that many chief executives in Ireland are still planning for growth despite the uncertainty created by the UK's planned exit from the European Union in 2019. Many of the CEOs are focusing on export markets to achieve growth, he said.
"Overall, in weighing up the opportunities and uncertainties, CEOs are slightly more cautious in their outlook with a consequent impact on the pace of investment decisions," said Mr O'Rourke.
"Nevertheless they remain focused on the growth potential of their businesses."
The survey found that despite their concerns, 49pc of chief executives still expect to hire more staff in the coming year.
But a lack of skilled staff is hampering their efforts to expand, with 81pc concerned about the availability of key skills.
Some recruiters have recently noted that some skilled foreign nationals such as tech workers offered jobs in Ireland have turned down posts because they viewed the cost of living here as being too high compared with other European cities with better transport infrastructure and housing availability.
PwC's director of people and organisation, Gerard McDonough, said that concerns around the lack of key skills in Ireland have been "very high" for the last five years.
The survey showed that 75pc of CEOs plan to grow their revenues in the year ahead, but 11pc expect to cut jobs.
Almost all of the chief executives of Irish divisions of multinational corporations - 96pc - said they were happy with their investments in Ireland, with 58pc citing the 12.5pc corporate tax rate as essential for preserving their investment here.
Some 47pc cited maintaining and increasing cost competitiveness as a critical factor in this regard.
Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, said Brexit is a "key concern for policy makers and business leaders.
"This Government is doing everything possible to respond strongly to the impacts of Brexit by working with international and local stakeholder to provide supports to business and safeguard Irish jobs," she said.