What a difference a year makes

We need to cut costs and increase productivity to pay the mounting debt. It is disconcerting that Ireland dropped from being the 22nd most competitive economy in 2009 to the 29th in 2010, according to the World Economic Forum.

People pay attention to the overall indicator and rank, but the subindicators tell the real story. There are no surprises, really, but it is a sobering read.

Here are some the negative trends:

*Public trust of politicians: 37 to 65

— higher numbers are worse, as countries are ranked from 1 to 139

*Wastefulness of government spending: 45 to 93

*Burden of government regulation: 61 to 87

*Efficiency of legal framework: 22 to 27

*Government deficit: 55 to 130

*Savings rate: 75 to 119

*Government debt: 51 to 112

*Intensity of local competition: 39 to 51

*Time required to start a business: 24 to 45

*Brain drain: 10 to 19

*Financing through local equity market: 51 to 105

*Ease of access to loans: 19 to 117

*Soundness of banks: 9 to 139 (bottom of the pile)

*Regulation of security exchanges: 16 to 90

*Capacity for innovation: 26 to 31

*Government procurement of advanced tech: 43 to 75

There are positive trends too:

*Quality of infrastructure (6 indices, all up)

*Inflation: 48 to 3

*Interest rate: 63 to 11 (I guess the data are older than a few weeks)

*Pay and productivity: 76 to 56

Ireland is still the best place in the world if you worry about malaria. The judiciary is still strong. And foreign investors are still treated well.