Friday, 30 April 2021
Business and Covid-19: Statements
I thank the Tánaiste for taking our statements today and I welcome him to the Seanad, although that feels a little ironic coming from me. The time has been, undoubtedly, stressful and challenging. However, this period has also given us the opportunity to see increased initiative. Covid-19 has ignited a sense of enterprise and initiative. Our duty is to ensure we harness that in the best way we can. We have seen a transformative thinking in that there has been a turn towards the accommodation of remote working and other ways of thinking about how we could do things.
The pandemic experience has been a tale of two economies and it will also be a tale of two recoveries. There are those businesses that thrived, responded to the challenges, were able to pivot and by their nature, lent themselves to the economy as it presented itself over the last year. There are also those who opened businesses during Covid-19. Boom Coffee in Inchicore opened a little coffee shop in the middle of a residential area because people were working from home and wanted to walk down to get a coffee. We can ensure that innovation continues.
However, there are, obviously, those who did not work. The hospitality industry is the prime example of that. I welcome the phased return and phased supports that have been well put in place. The sliding scale to a point of financial self-sufficiency is important.
There are also businesses and industries opening up, such as childcare, that have no idea how the post Covid-19 world will look. There are particular challenges within it. If people move from working from home or remote working towards, as our party supports, the idea of community enterprise remote working hubs, what is the challenge for childcare in its intermittent provision of childcare services? How does it hold on to consistency in the care and development of children?
We went into this pandemic with a strong economy and thriving business and, undoubtedly, that has put us in a position to be able to leverage financial supports for our people, thanks to good governance under the Fine Gael-led Government. However, we need a bespoke response that supports businesses as they respond to stress testing.There is a new marketplace out there which means that people may live differently. It is not, therefore, only a case of easing restrictions and having a sliding scale that responds to that, but also about having a response to the new marketplace.
I met yesterday with members of the credit union movement. Credit unions have had a very interesting experience during Covid in that they have experienced unprecedented levels of saving. This causes difficulties for them because the more money they have on deposit, the more it costs them. Credit unions are very anxious to open up and provide loans, particularly to small and medium enterprises. There is an opportunity to have credit unions work like Microfinance Ireland. They have local knowledge in local communities. Infrastructural oversights and a review were put forward previously by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, but we need to accelerate those.
I have many more issues I would like to raise but I will yield to my colleague.