Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
I am acutely aware that restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 continue to affect activity across many sectors.
SMEs, particularly in the employment intensive non-traded sector, have been disproportionately affected by the crisis. While Multinational companies remained relatively resilient, reinforcing the importance of FDI to Ireland, international competition for FDI is intensifying. Furthermore, the threat of a hard Brexit exposes a wider range of sectors to economic risk.
Initial restrictions to contain the virus resulted in a sudden and severe contraction in economic activity and saw almost the entire workforce in some sectors moving to income supports.
Tourism, hospitality, construction, retail, arts and culture and services sectors were hardest hit. Although retail, construction and non-essential elements of manufacturing reopened in the early phases of the roadmap for reopening society and business, many firms still face challenges and require continued support. Sectors reliant on international travel or impacted by distancing measures remain severely impacted and industries that are dependent on these sectors are also experiencing threats to viability.
Sectors that have more readily adapted to distancing measures and remote work including financial and business services have been less impacted although the extent of the impact has been dependent on the nature of their customer base.
While supply has largely remained functional in the agri-food sector, national and export demand reduced considerably, impacting market returns. The growing prospect of a hard Brexit presents additional challenges to the Agri-food sector.
Some sectors have experienced growth opportunities. Technology-intensive sectors have benefited from a more rapid adoption of new platforms as economic activity shifts from physical to virtual. The quest for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and improved medical devices in response to COVID-19 has provided innovation and diversification opportunities for life sciences sectors.
To date the Government has provided enhanced economy wide supports totalling almost €20 billion including the €7.4 Billion July Stimulus Package. The additional measures announced in the July Stimulus aim to address challenges and support opportunities across all sectors. While these supports are wide ranging, they will by their nature be of most assistance to the most heavily impacted firms and sectors. Budget 2021 will continue to address short term crisis- and recovery-related supports. Work is also underway on the National Economic Plan which will set out a vision and roadmap to 2025 building resilience across enterprise and sectors.