Seanad debates

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

3:30 pm

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Wexford, Fine Gael)

Regarding the EII, Senator Ó Céidigh probably said it better than I can. We have too much bank lending to business in Ireland. We have the highest level, or some of the highest levels, of bank lending in any jurisdiction anywhere. Banks are the only funding source for businesses. The EII scheme is a good one. Our businesses must move away from being funded exclusively by banks. The scheme was not working well enough and the take-up has not been good enough.It gives investors the opportunity to invest in companies or undertake other projects that will be crucial in creating employment. In that regard, I reiterate my point about the dignity of work.

The Senator also raised the issue of education. I have visited universities all over the world. Nobody wants our system to become like the American system where third level education costs €80,000 or €90,000 a year. While education is not free here - there is a registration charge and costs of living arise in the city or town where the education is provided - it is not expensive. Ireland has the highest level of educated people anywhere in the world. This feeds into the workforce that is required and will be required in future. Without workers to take the places of people retiring, we would have vacancies which would not be good. In addition to third level not being expensive, 50% of those in third level education receive a grant. The Senator should not ignore that because it is extremely beneficial.

I referred to pay and the real estate investment trusts, REITs, and the Irish real estate funds, IREFs. Sinn Féin's policy was to raise €35 million from these funds, whereas today's budget proposes to raise €80 million from them.

Senator Lawlor spoke about allowing local authorities to spend money. We lost many local authority staff who had knowledge, skill sets and abilities to build housing estates. Their retirement has been a loss, as I have pointed out previously.

I referred to the Judicial Council Bill 2017.

I have no knowledge of the endoscopy unit referred to.

Senator Ó Ceidigh spoke about schemes for SMEs, including the key employee engagement programme, KEEP. These are good schemes. The SMEs are the lifeblood of employment in Ireland.

On global tax, we are in a very uncertain period internationally. The trade war that could arise between the two largest trading areas, the US and China, could tilt the world into an economic depression, as opposed to a recession. Hopefully, it will not arise and common sense will prevail. This is in addition to Brexit and the fact that we are still emerging from the previous recession. The people who would have to pay for the next recession are still paying for the previous one. These are challenges we cannot ignore.

Senator Warfield, who has just left, raised the issue of spending on culture. Current expenditure on culture has increased by €8 million or 3%, which I accept is not a huge increase. Capital expenditure in the cultural budget has increased by 9%, which is a fairly decent rise. Everything I am saying about employment and salaries and the self-employed also applies to artists because they pay much the same rates of tax as everybody else.

If I have left out any of the issues Senators raised, I apologise. I probably went on for a little longer than I had anticipated.

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