Tuesday, 10 December 2019
OECD Report on SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland: Statements
I should state at the outset that I own a small business and have a good understanding of how small businesses operate in this country. I welcome the fact that the Minister will roll out the red carpet for SMEs. It is hard to believe that over 1 million people are employed in the SME sector in Ireland. We must see full tax equalisation for the self-employed, with PAYE credits. We must also ensure that our capital gains tax rate is competitive. Our employment and investment incentive scheme, EIIS, regime must be capable of competing with the UK equivalent. We need a State-backed enterprise bank for small businesses, many of which are finding it very difficult to secure credit from high street banks. An enterprise stabilisation fund must be made available to the worst-affected and most exposed firms in the context of a hard Brexit. I know that a fund of €300 million is in place but just over 15% of SMEs have applied to it, which indicates that it is not working. More support must be provided to SMEs to enable them to benefit from that fund.
The biggest problem facing SMEs today is the cost of insurance. This was raised in the Dáil earlier today by my party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, and it has been mentioned in this debate. I understand that the Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018 has been through the Seanad and is due to be introduced in the Dáil. While that legislation is probably years too late, at least it is coming. The quicker that Bill is brought into this House, debated and passed, the better. Currently there is nothing to deter people from making false insurance claims. We all know that there are genuine claims being made but there are also a lot of fraudulent claims being processed. Claimants can just walk away and those paying insurance premiums have to bear the cost. It is time for the Government and this House to stand up for small business owners, community groups, hall owners and so on who are struggling to survive in rural Ireland. We must stand up for once and for all and do whatever we can as quickly as we can to ensure that this nonsense stops.