Small and medium-seized firms are the corner stone of the economy yet their needs are repeatedly ignored by a government that fails to tackle high business costs, it has been warned.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) said there needed to be a much more proactive SME focused initiative to reboot domestic demand, 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”.
“In comparison, the private sector has already experienced wage cuts, together with suffering thousands of job losses and company closures,” he said.
“This administration must tackle the public sector costs that are crippling private enterprise through cut-backs and taxes.”
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 said small businesses were being excluded from the public procurement process.
"By its action, this Government demonstrates that it knows the price of everything and the value of very little,” he said.
"We need to change Ireland from a dependent to a self-reliant society-from a give-it-to-me, to a do-it-yourself nation; from a sit-back-and-wait-for-it to a get-up-and-go Ireland.”