Tuesday, 10 December 2019
OECD Report on SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland: Statements
I welcome the opportunity to contribute and thank my colleague, Deputy Michael Moynihan, who pushed it at the Business Committee to ensure the OECD report would be debated here. I welcome the Minister’s statement that she is going to start listening to SMEs. She acknowledged that she felt they have not been listened to and said she will extend the red carpet to them. It is worthy that after nine years the Government realises how important this sector is to the economy. Over 250,000 SMEs in the country account for 99% of all business enterprises in Ireland, employing in excess of 1 million people. They are the backbone of this economy but unfortunately over recent years they have not felt that their concerns have been listened to or addressed.
This report confirms that Ireland is less innovative, productive and export-oriented than foreign-owned counterparts. Alarmingly the OECD states that Ireland lacks a unified SME and entrepreneur policy document, that despite there being 1 million employed by SMEs we do not have a business strategy at Government level. Without that strategy it is hardly surprising that Ireland has fallen to its lowest ranking, 24th of 190 economies in a 12-year history of the World Bank's rating for ease of doing business. Among our competitor countries the UK ranked eighth, Denmark fourth and Sweden tenth. Ireland lags behind top performing economies: in enforcing contracts it is 91st; registering property, 60th; and getting credit, 48th. One of the biggest challenges facing not just SMEs but businesses and the community sector are the spiralling insurance premia. My party leader raised this on Leaders Questions today. We have no concrete data collected on public liability insurance but the anecdotal evidence presented to me and my colleagues in all political parties is that premia are increasing by between 100% and 300%. In reply to a parliamentary question on the completion of the action plan the Minister said that of the ten actions none has been completed. They are all "in progress", "in train" and "yet to be completed". That shows the laissez faireattitude of this Government to dealing with the high cost of insurance. In 2017, Ireland's energy costs ranked among the top ten most expensive countries in the EU. Despite their quantitative dominance and employment creation record SMEs are struggling in many respects and delivering very poor productivity according to wide research.
This report is not reinventing the wheel. SMEs want to know when the key recommendations of this report will be implemented and whether they will be implemented in a timely manner. Critical to this is the first action, the need for a unified strategy across Departments. When can we expect that strategy to be published? I understood it was to be published before the end of this year. In her contribution the Minister said it would be published within months.