Speaking at the annual conference of the Small Firms Association (SFA), Ireland’s Minister for Small Business, John Perry, TD, cited the successes of the Action Plan for Jobs and stated that two schemes to provide finance for small businesses will be available later this year.
The one-day conference in the Clyde Court Hotel, Dublin, took on the theme of ‘Restoring customer confidence’, and Perry believes this can only be done by restoring sustainability to the public finances, repairing the banking system and returning the economy to sustainable growth.
“Effectively addressing these key areas will result in increased employment, investment and consumer spending and will be crucial in driving this country forward,” said Perry. “Job creation and retention is central to our economic recovery and the Programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my department is to ensure that we have the right policies to support enterprise and innovation so that quality employment opportunities can be grown and maintained. It is only by fostering the right environment for businesses to expand that we will see new jobs coming on stream.”
Perry then went on to cite efforts made by the Government to increase job creation in Ireland, starting with the €500m jobs initiative started in May 2011 and the Action Plan for Jobs, which has been informed by recommendations from bodies such as the Advisory Group for Small Business.
Taking action to create jobs
The 2012, Action Plan for Jobs was published in February this year with the target of supporting the creation of 100,000 new jobs between 2012 and 2016. Its long-term objective is to have 2m people at work in Ireland by 2020.
Perry believes the first progress report on the Action Plan (which was published on 20 April) shows progress is being made. “The progress achieved in the first quarter of 2012 is just the first stage in delivering on the 270 measures in this year’s Action Plan. The impact of the process in terms of jobs created will be measurable over a longer period,” he said.
Out of 83 measures due for delivery across Government departments by the close of quarter one, 80 have been implemented.
These include the launch of the Succeed in Ireland initiative, which intends to deliver at least 5,000 jobs over five years and marked its first success in May, and a global second call under Innovation Fund Ireland worth more than €60m to target investment in high-growth technology companies.
Financial support for small businesses
The Action Plan for Jobs also intends to tackle the issue of credit facilities for small businesses. This will involve the establishment of the Temporary Partial Loan Guarantee Scheme and the Microfinance Fund in the third quarter of this year. Both these schemes will be available to assist companies who have been refused finance by the banks.
“The Microfinance Loan Fund is designed to stimulate lending to sustainable micro-enterprises and is targeted at start-up, newly established or growing micro-enterprises across all industry sectors, employing not more than 10 people,” Perry explained. “It will provide loans of up to €25,000 for commercially viable proposals that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by commercial banks.”
Perry concluded his speech with encouraging words for entrepreneurs. “Now more than ever we need ambitious and energetic entrepreneurs who can play a real part in driving a positive uplift in the economy, leading to improved customer confidence,” he said.