High business costs a barrier to creating jobs – ISME head
Small and medium-seized firms are the cornerstone of the economy yet their needs are repeatedly ignored by a government that fails to tackle high business costs, a lobby group claimed yesterday. The comments came as the Government published legislation aimed at reducing the cost of examinership.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) said there needed to be a much more proactive SME-focused initiative to reboot domestic demand and improve competitiveness and growth.
At its annual conference in Dublin, the lobby group warned against premature celebrations on exiting the bailout and called for "innovative initiatives" to deal with public sector costs, bank lending and public procurement.
Chairman Eamonn Kielty said: "Ireland would not be preparing to exit the bailout at the end of this year if it had not been for the sheer hard work and courage of SME owner-managers throughout the crisis.
"SMEs are the cornerstone of this economy and yet our needs are continuously ignored by a government that allows high business costs to prohibit opportunities for owner-managers to create employment."
Mr Kielty urged the Government to cut social welfare costs and public sector costs. And he claimed it was the private sector that funds the public sector "who have terms and conditions of employment that are the envy of the rest of society".
The comments came as the Government published the Companies Bill, which includes a measure aimed at reducing the cost of compliance for businesses by making it easier to file statutory accounts online.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said small businesses were central to plans to boost growth.
"Many of these businesses have great growth potential but face legacy debt problems after the crisis, due to three main factors – bad property investments, unsustainable rents, and the legacy of a number of difficult years of trading during the crisis," he said.
"We believe that if we can create a mechanism for them to deal with these legacy problems we can not only save large numbers of jobs but also unlock the potential for the growth and job creation we so badly need."
But Mr Kielty repeated ISME's call for a Development Fund for the "wealth generating" SME sector. And he said the Government must ensure that steps are taken by the Central Bank to protect small businesses from the "gouging usually associated with Irish banks".
He also said small businesses were being excluded from the public procurement process.