Tuesday, 10 December 2019
OECD Report on SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland: Statements
The OECD report highlights how vital SMEs are to our economy, outlining the fact that 92% of enterprises operating here had fewer than ten employees, which shows that microbusinesses are the engine of our economy.
However, one would not know this from the approach of Ministers, who focuses all their attention on cutting big ribbons at multinational headquarters. Multinational investment in this State is important, but it should not come at the expense of neglecting small indigenous businesses that are the engine of the economy.
Sinn Féin has proposed a policy that would begin a process of rebalancing the State's industrial strategy by supporting and growing indigenous businesses. I launched that policy recently with my colleague, Deputy Munster. We propose to reorganise the current LEO structure into a larger centrally-led national agency, with the scale and ambition to help grow indigenous businesses. The purpose of this new jobs agency would be to grow domestic businesses, providing balance to our economy, our workforce and our public finances.
With the prospect of a no-deal Brexit still in the mix, it is vital that we strengthen the domestic economy now in order that it can both withstand the impact of Brexit, but also continue to expand under the new circumstances. A new jobs agency focused on our domestic businesses can help achieve this.
Sinn Féin recognise the importance of FDI, but we also recognise the risks an over-reliance on this sector alone brings. Some 45% of the total corporation tax take in 2018 came from just ten companies, while foreign-owned multinationals paid 77% of the €10.4 billion corporation tax take that year. That is just is not sustainable. While we are still supportive of maintaining FDI and export-led growth as key pillars of our industrial strategy, it is imperative we grow our indigenous and co-operative sectors to provide balance to our economy and to our public finances. A new stronger jobs agency focused on micro and small businesses can lead that change. In addition to providing business support to SME owners, this agency would encourage good pay and working conditions for employees and develop remote working hubs on derelict sites to address the decline of many town centres, giving workers the option of working from their own communities, if they so wish.
LEO staff have done excellent work to date with the resources they have been given, and we believe an opportunity now exists to build on their experience and knowledge by creating a larger, more ambitious State body focused solely on indigenous Irish businesses.
We have also proposed re-establishing the co-operative development unit in the Minister's Department. We encourage her to consider that, as the unit would encourage the growth and development of co-operatives that are currently rare enough in this State. I also encourage her to examine our proposals, which aim to build on the good work of LEOs and increase the level of support to micro and small businesses.