Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Question 141: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has had direct contact with representatives of the manufacturing and services sectors with a view to safeguarding employment in these areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7535/09]
Maintaining the competitiveness of the enterprise sector in Ireland is a priority issue for my Department and our development agencies. In order to sustain and grow the manufacturing sector, Irish based manufacturing enterprises will be encouraged and assisted to continue the progression to high value added sectors and activities, and continue to increase productivity through investments in human capital, technology and innovation.
In the course of my engagements, I have met a wide array of people, representative of all sectors and levels of the Irish economy. All of these meetings deepen my own and my Department's understanding of the particular concerns and difficulties of those operating in the current economic environment. The Irish economy is now one of the most globalised in the world. As a consequence, the uncertainty created by the current international financial crisis has had a significant impact on our economy. Paramount amongst my concerns, and those of the Government, is how to sustain and create employment in these difficult times. The challenge is to create the conditions in which the different sectors can best prosper and avail of an economic upturn when it materialises.
In 2008, my Department facilitated the development of two reports examining in a detailed manner the attributes and needs of the Manufacturing and Services sectors, respectively, with a view to developing strategies for their success in the future. The "Report of the High Level Group on Manufacturing", identified the focused actions needed by employers, employees and Government to respond to challenges and take advantage of opportunities to further develop the sector in Ireland. The report sets out a number of recommendations directed at key areas of innovation and productivity leading to transformational change, reskilling and management development for the innovative firm, and increasing awareness and take up of existing supports. The Social Partners agreed, as part of the review of "Towards 2016", that a Manufacturing Forum should be established, in line with the recommendations of the High Level Group on Manufacturing. This matter is currently being progressed by my Department in consultation with the Department of An Taoiseach and the Social Partners.
We continue to be one of the world's leading service exporting countries. Over the next ten years, services will be one of the key drivers of Ireland's economic success and job creation. The report of the Services Strategy Group, "Catching the Wave: A Services Strategy for Ireland", sets out new policy proposals on how we can ensure the continued development and growth of Ireland's services sector and outlines how to maximise the future returns to the country from services activities in all enterprises, both current and potential. Implementation of the recommendations of the Services Strategy Group — some of which are already being acted on by the Enterprise Agencies — will enable Irish service companies to exploit new and exciting opportunities, such as eLearning, business and financial services, professional and consultancy services and others.
I am determined to maintain and improve our focus on developing indigenous industry, where we are working consistently and successfully to build Irish exports in world markets. The newly established Growth Fund is designed to assist Enterprise Ireland's small to medium sized clients achieve greater competitiveness by improving their export potential. This will be achieved by increasing gross output and productivity whilst also maintaining existing employment levels in clients throughout all counties. I recently launched Enterprise Ireland's strategy for the internationalisation of Ireland's services sector, which aims to promote a significant increase in exports sales in this sector by 2015. I also announced Enterprise Ireland's "Going Global Fund" which is aimed specifically at locally traded companies that have successfully established businesses in Ireland and wish to explore opportunities to sell abroad.
The government is committed to ensuring that we continue to create an environment for enterprise that remains among the most favourable in the world and which will position us for long term economic growth through the adoption of this series of proactive policies and strategies that best serve the interests of the manufacturing and services sectors.