Belfast Telegraph

Bailout bosses demand competition

Bailout bosses have heaped pressure on the Government to lower prices for medical care, pharmacies and legal services.

In the first review of the 85 billion euro rescue package, the European Union (EU) /International Monetary Fund (IMF) underlined deregulation of the "sheltered sectors" as part of the agreement to draw down cash.

Istvan Szekely, director of economic and financial affairs at the European Commission, said the move is necessary to ensure value for money for Irish people.

"The idea there is to make the consumer the king - competition to allow these sectors to lower their prices so the purchasing power and costs for business here is lower," he said.

Mr Szekely said there should also be independent regulation to keep an eye on the competition levels.

But organisations representing the professions said they have not been informed of any plans by the Government for an overhaul.

Jeanne McDonagh, of the Bar Council of Ireland, denied barristers operated in a sheltered sector, insisting the senior legal profession is "most competitive" with supply outstripping demand.

"We have had no details of the IMF plans to consider as of yet, and we have had no chance to respond directly to the IMF, and would greatly welcome the opportunity to do so," she added.

Maria Murphy, of the Irish Medical Organisation, said it is waiting to hear from the Government about what changes it is planning to make.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said while the competition measures were referred to in the original bailout deal, it was not expecting any mention of it in the review, and spokesman Gerard Howlin said it had had no contact from the Government about the proposals.

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