Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
Question 237: To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he has examined issues impeding job creation; the measures taken or intended to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21380/11]
Question 242: To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he has examined issues impeding investment in manufacturing and service sectors; the extent of any initiatives taken or pending to address issues arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21385/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 237 and 242 together.
The main factors impacting upon job creation and investment in manufacturing and services are a loss of confidence in the economy, access to finance for firms, costs competitiveness issues, including costs of labour, commercial rates, energy costs, certain business services costs (e.g. accountancy, legal services), and, in some cases property rental costs.
The Programme for Government outlines the actions which will be taken on a number of fronts to support enterprise, including:
· stabilising the public finances to restore confidence
· improving access to finance for enterprises,
· getting our cost base right, and
· developing strategies to capitalise on Ireland's potential in key sectors.
In recent weeks, we have seen that our budgetary projections are on track and we are meeting the quarterly targets set out in the EU/IMF Memorandum of Understanding. Our policies and our actions are proving to be credible and we are rebuilding confidence in the economy. A measure of this is that, so far this year, there have been 38 IDA announcements with the potential to create over 4,000 jobs.
The recent Jobs Initiative also contains a number of measures which will help to stimulate the domestic economy, including reductions in Employer's PRSI and the lower rate of VAT.
The Jobs Initiative also made commitments to introduce a Loan Guarantee scheme and a Microfinance Start up Fund, to improve access to finance for businesses. My Department is currently working on developing these schemes.
Recent reports from the National Competitiveness Council show that the Irish economy continued to show an improvement in its competitiveness in 2010, building on a gradual restoration of performance since 2008. Costs of doing business in Ireland have reduced in relation to labour costs, property costs, utilities and business services.
However, there is no room for complacency. The Government is committed to keeping all costs which impact on business as low as possible to enable them to benefit fully from the stimulus provided by the Jobs Initiative. This will require a joined-up effort across all Government Departments. In this context, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Government to explore options for further reducing costs to business, particularly those that are set by Government or Local Authorities.
I am also working to develop the potential of opportunities in a number of emerging sectors, including Cloud Computing, Digital Gaming and other sectors.
Question 238: To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he and his Department have engaged with the various EU authorities with a view to enhancing job creation opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21381/11]
Since taking office, my colleagues Minister Sherlock, Minister Perry and I, along with senior officials of the Department, have availed of every opportunity to engage with all the EU institutions on policies of mutual concern regarding job creation.
As I outlined to the Deputy in my reply of the 6 June, I fully support the core elements of the European Union's new strategy for Jobs and Growth: Europe 2020 and its objectives to stimulate growth based on knowledge and innovation and a more sustainable and greener economy with high employment and social inclusion. These objectives are also broadly consistent with the Government's own strategies as set out in the Programme for Government and the National Recovery Plan.
I believe that it is of vital importance to Ireland's interests in implementing the Europe 2020 strategy that both Ministerial and official links with the EU Commission, the European Parliament and other EU Institutions be strengthened and maintained. Accelerating and intensifying engagement at EU level is particularly important for my Department because of the major EU aspect attaching to much of this Department's work.
At official level, my Department has regular contact with EU Commission officials on foot of the EU competitiveness and National Reform Programme monitoring and tracking processes as well as on strategic trade policy matters. At Ministerial level, we are actively engaging with the EU institutions. Since last March, Ministers have had several useful bilaterals with Commissioners and high ranking EU officials. Meetings have also been held with other Member States that share strategic interests at both Ministerial and official levels. Building and increasing these contacts will be an ongoing task and a priority at ministerial and official levels, particularly as we look forward to the Irish EU Presidency in 2013.
During my attendance in May at the Trade Council I met with Commissioner De Gucht, who is responsible for Trade, and later that month at the EU Competitiveness Council with Commissioner Barnier, who is responsible for the Internal Market and Services, and also Vice-President and Commissioner Tajani who is responsible for Enterprise and Industry. At these meetings, I took the opportunity first and foremost, to underline the Irish Government's efforts at recovery and explained that restructuring our banking system was key in terms of releasing lending to SMEs. I emphasised the importance of trade and exports for Ireland's economic recovery. As exports are key to our growth model, the EU's market opening and trade agenda is especially important in providing new opportunities for our exporters but our sensitive sectors have to be given priority attention in pending free trade negotiations. I also outlined the measures contained in the Government's Jobs Initiative. Some issues impacting on SMEs which are addressed in the Small Business Act for Europe are part of the Government's Jobs Initiative. Ireland certainly endorses the horizontal principle of 'think small first' as established in the EU's Small Business Act, of which reducing regulatory burden for small business and making it easier for small businesses to grow and penetrate global markets and key policy areas.
In recognition that business and enterprise create jobs and drive economic growth and innovation, the Commissioners concurred that it was essential that the optimal environment and framework conditions be in place to allow this to happen. At EU level, I agreed that it was important that we continue to develop strong demand side innovation policy instruments in areas such as standardisation, public procurement supporting innovation, an integrated EU venture capital market and better regulation and tackling red tape and duplication. We will be working with our EU partners and the EU Commission to bring these policy instruments and associated measures to fruition through the various Council Working Groups and Committees and in particular through the EU Competitiveness Council.
Ireland's Strategy Statement on Trade, Tourism and Investment connects seamlessly with the EU's trade policy - Trade Growth and World Affairs – that was published towards the end of 2010. This policy means a focussed EU involvement on negotiating a conclusion to the WTO's long running trade talks (the Doha Round or DDA) as well as concluding free trade and other trade related agreements with important economic partners including Canada, India and the U.S.
Last month I met with Commissioner Andor who is responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. He spoke about the key role that Social Innovation plays in the Europe 2020 Strategy, the EU's blueprint for the decade to come, as well as the Commission's strategic focus on promoting job creation and the emphasis it places on maintaining jobs and boosting skills.
Both the Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Sean Sherlock, TD, and I have had separate meetings recently with the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Ms Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, with a view to building strong relationships to ensure that Ireland maximises the benefits of our position in the EU in terms of jobs and opportunities to further develop our economy. Most recently, I met with the Commissioner on 24 June when we held an event in Dublin to highlight opportunities for Irish researchers, businesses and educational institutions under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). The Commissioner highlighted the fact that upcoming calls for proposals under FP7 in July 2011 and July 2012 will be worth approximately €18 billion.
Last month the Minister for Small Business, Mr John Perry T.D., met with Irish MEPs and senior EU Commission officials and took the opportunity emphasise that Ireland has to rebuild its competitiveness and reprioritise trade and investment. Our policies are complementary and inter-connected with the Europe 2020 strategy, completion of the Single Market, European competitiveness and industrial policy.
Minister Perry has also been appointed as Ireland's SME Envoy, under the Review of the Small Business Act for Europe and will play a constructive role with similarly appointed Envoys from the other Member States. He recently attended the first meeting of SME Envoys in Budapest under the auspices of the Hungarian EU Presidency. The next meeting of the group is scheduled for September 2011. The SME Envoy network includes Ministers and Director Generals of SME policies and facilitates the sharing of best practice in terms of policy to assist their respective SMEs.
Question 240: To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he continues to evaluate the impact of the jobs initiative with a view to selective enhancement in order to maximise opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21383/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 246 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, on 10th May the Government announced the introduction of a range of measures under the Jobs Initiative to improve the competitiveness of the economy, to support the maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of new ones, and to assist those who are currently unemployed to return to work.
Many of these measures have already been brought into effect, including the reduction of VAT on restaurant and catering services, hotel and holiday accommodation and various entertainment services; the halving of the lower rate of employer's PRSI on earnings up to €356 per week; the launch of the National Internship scheme; and the focusing of the State's capital expenditure towards more employment-intensive projects in the areas of education, local and regional roads and sustainable transport projects.
These, and all of the other measures announced in the Jobs Initiative, will be kept under review by the Government to evaluate their impact and effectiveness.
The Jobs Initiative also made commitments to introduce a Loan Guarantee scheme and a Microfinance Start up Fund, to improve access to finance for businesses. My Department is currently working on developing these schemes and I expect to be in a position to announced the details of the schemes within the next six months.
I am also continuing to develop proposals for substantial reform of our Sectoral Wage Agreements and I am working to develop job opportunities in a number of emerging sectors, including Cloud Computing, Digital Gaming and other areas.
I will also continue working with my Government colleagues over the coming months to identify actions that can be taken to reduce costs for business, particularly in relation to areas involving Central or Local Government costs.
All of the measures I have outlined – along with other commitments in the Programme for Government - will contribute to facilitating job creation and retention.