Thursday, 10 July 2014
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
10. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the actions that have been taken in response to the analysis of the action plan on jobs carried out by the OECD; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29937/14]
The OECD published a preliminary review of the action plan for jobs on 22 April this year. The review examines some key elements of the action plan and found that the plan's focus on private sector-led, export-oriented job creation by getting framework conditions right and continually upgrading the business environment is a sound approach, particularly given fiscal and credit constraints. The review endorses the strategy of the action plan in getting the framework conditions right to support enterprise-led, export-oriented job creation. The focus on building and strengthening linkages between domestic SMEs and the FDI sector is also welcomed in the review.
The OECD review recognises that the action plan’s co-ordination mechanism, robust monitoring system and whole-of-government engagement is an important step in addressing the gaps that previously undermined successful policy implementation. However, the review also suggests a number of areas where we can make improvements, including ensuring that high unemployment does not become structural and persistent; stepping up efforts to improve access to finance for SMEs; ensuring that investment in basic research is translated into commercial products and services; and, introducing a performance assessment framework to measure progress towards achieving the action plan’s strategic objectives.
We have already taken on board some of the OECD’s suggestions in 2014 as part of the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work processes. For example, the Government has increased its focus on activating those most vulnerable to being distanced from the labour market through Pathways to Work and the Youth Guarantee. Further efforts are being made to increase new lending to SMEs, drawing on both bank, and non-bank, sources of funding, while the establishment of Knowledge Transfer Ireland last May will make it easier for companies to leverage the commercial potential of Irish research and innovation.
The development of a performance assessment framework to measure progress on the action plan’s strategic objectives is included in the work programme for the senior officials group on economic recovery and jobs for the second half of 2014.
One of the criticisms of the report was that the overall strategy was too centralised and needed to be adjusted and that bodies representing different industries and sectors in different regions of the country would be involved in it. This would support the ever and ongoing discussion on regional investment. Has the Minister any thoughts of a departmental review of regional policy?
I welcome the performance assessment framework, but what has the Minister in mind for that? Will it, for example, involve a role for the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation or will some element of this House contribute to that framework? How spin proof will it be?
The monitoring is centralised in the Department of the Taoiseach, which oversees every Department. The merit of this lies in the fact that it tries to span the whole area. Both I and the Ministers of State travel continually to the regions to hold meetings on the Action Plan for Jobs in order to get regional feedback. We are open each year to public contribution and ideas from anyone in any part of the country. As the Deputy knows, this year I am developing, for the first time, a regional enterprise strategy framework to try to bring the different pieces together, the EI piece, the IDA piece, the LEO piece and the wider stakeholders who can help to make this a success. As I indicated earlier, this framework will be rolled out this year, starting in just a couple of regions.
What we are trying to do in regard to performance indicators is to develop indicators that are SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. We will look at the issue from the birth of businesses right through development. It will not be just about employment. We will look at a wider range to see how we are doing at start-up level, how we are doing at scaling companies and so on. That is the approach we seek to adopt. We are working on that and would welcome the committee's participation.