THE Republic of Ireland has won a resounding vote of confidence from US financial bible Forbes, which named it the best country in the world for business.
The magazine placed Ireland first in its ranking of 145 nations for the first time since the annual list began in 2006, while the UK is in twelfth place.
"Despite economic troubles, Ireland still maintains an extremely pro-business environment that has attracted investments by some of the world's biggest companies over the past decade. In Forbes' eighth annual ranking of the Best Countries for Business, Ireland grabs the top spot for the first time," it said.
This is a massive boost for the country's hopes of driving recovery and boosting job figures via investment by large firms from across the Atlantic.
Forbes is hugely influential in the USA where it is published bi-weekly and enjoys a circulation of close to one million. It noted that wages in Ireland have dropped significantly since the recession began, while there is a "stubbornly high" unemployment rate, which means companies have a large pool of prospective workers to pick from.
Ireland moved up from its number six ranking last year on the strength of improved scores on monetary freedom, which gauges price stability and price controls. The 44% return for the Irish Stock Exchange Overall Index in the 12 months to November 20 also propelled the Republic up the table.
"Ireland has continued to attract direct foreign investment, despite its problems," Melanie Bowler of Moody's Analytics told Forbes.
She cited the 12.5% corporate tax rate, an educated workforce and the fact that there was a common language with the USA.
The IDA – the equivalent of Northern Ireland's Invest NI –said yesterday that the Forbes ranking will reach senior business people across the world.
Chief executive Barry O'Leary said: "Country rankings like this are used by companies across the world when they make initial decisions to investigate the possibility of locating their businesses internationally.
"IDA Ireland intends to use the survey results as marketing material in key markets like the US and Europe."
New Zealand dropped to number two, although it remains a fast-growing economy with its GDP up 2.5% last year.
Hong Kong ranks third for the second straight year, although economic growth has slowed there recently.
Two Scandinavian countries, Denmark and Sweden, complete the top five.
Forbes determined the Best Countries for Business by grading 145 nations on 11 different factors: property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance.
Return from the Irish stock exchange in the year to November 20