Entrepreneurs will drive engine of economic recovery, Tanaiste says

10 Dec 2009

In what has been described as the toughest Budget in the history of the State, the Government says it has recognised the need to continue to support entrepreneurs, maintain investment in science, technology and innovation and invest in the regions.

“Our investments in this Budget confirm our solid commitment to R&D and to the various enterprise programs and supports provided to Irish industry,” said the Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan TD.

“We are encouraging the business sector to invest, to grow and to create new jobs. We are arresting the decline in our cost competitiveness. We are investing in skills and training for our workforce.”

In yesterday’s Budget, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan TD outlined the prioritising by Government of capital investment in the productive sector and “smart economy”.

This involves a €474-million capital commitment to the enterprise, job creation, and science, technology and innovation mandate of the Department of Enterprise and its agencies IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development, Science Foundation Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards.

The Budget included measures aimed at stimulating SMEs, including a one-year employers’ PRSI exemption for all new jobs created for the unemployed in 2010, a reduction in both the standard rate of VAT and rate of excise on alcohol to sustain jobs in the retail sector; and an extension of the three-year corporation tax exemption for start-up companies with a liability of less than €40,000.

“The importance of the enterprise sector, and of our innovators and entrepreneurs, as the engine that will drive our economic recovery is recognised in Budget 2010,” Coughlan said.

“This Government has prioritised capital investment in the most productive sector of our economy, while introducing measures that will assist our entrepreneurs to sustain and create new jobs in the short term.

“By abolishing employer’s PRSI for new employees for the first 12 months, we are sending out a strong signal to business that we are committed to growth and getting people back to work.

“This exemption will incentivise and accelerate job creation, reduce the numbers on the Live Register and help prevent the drift to long-term unemployment. It will also improve our competitiveness by reducing the cost of employment and help retain skills.”

Coughlan also confirmed that €1.2 billion would be provided in 2010 to support job retention and tackle unemployment through a range of activation and training measures, employment programmes and the Employment Subsidy Scheme.

She said that an additional €90 million would be committed in 2010 to increase the number of training and activation places for the unemployed through her department by 16,300 to a total of 146,300, bringing the number of activation places across Government to more than 180,000. She said that a detailed announcement on the nature of places to be made available in 2010 would be made at a later date.

In addition, Coughlan confirmed that she would put in place an additional 500 Community Employment Scheme places in 2010. She said that the teaching and development of entrepreneurial skills would form an important new element of the training matrix for 2010.

Coughlan also said that €20 million of the additional funding would fund an open call for proposals targeting the low skilled and those suffering from unemployment in declining sectors, including construction.

“Budget 2010 will be particularly welcome by those entrepreneurs in the retail sector, who have suffered a significant decrease in footfall and spending by consumers.

“This has been exacerbated by the realities and perceptions around competition from our neighbouring jurisdiction. The reduction in our standard rate of VAT, together with the VAT increase confirmed today in the UK, will return the VAT situation to the 2008 status quo.

“Our reduction in the rate of excise on alcohol will also impact on the attraction of travelling outside the State to purchase alcohol, resulting in greater sales at home and jobs retained in our economy.

STI investment

Coughlan highlighted that of her department’s €474 million capital allocation for 2010, some €276 million is being provided for science, technology and innovation (STI) programmes, bringing the total STI spend across Government to €600 million.

She also highlighted that €205 million, which includes €16 million in current expenditure, will be invested in enterprise supports administered through Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Shannon Development, the County and City Enterprise Boards and through cross-border programmes with Northern Ireland.

Coughlan confirmed that the Government would be implementing a single stream of funding for all STI activities, the details of which will be announced next year.

“This is to ensure maximum cohesion in the application and delivery of funding as we work to develop the smart economy and ensure that Ireland’s effort is strategically targeted on those areas where we can achieve greatest impact.”

Coughlan said that already in 2009, some €58 million has been provided for 140 internationally trading companies through the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund to assist them through current economic difficulties. She confirmed that support for the fund will continue in 2010.

“This is targeted expenditure. These are the very companies that Ireland is depending on for the export led growth that will take us out of this downturn,” Coughlan said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan TD.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years