NEVEN Maguire, the TV chef who transformed a border village in Cavan into a gastronomic hub, believes an extra 10 jobs created in his restaurant, cookery school and shop in the last year are directly linked to the 9 per cent Vat rate under threat in Tuesday's Budget.
He enjoyed a "great year" for trade, which he says came as a result of The Gathering. He believes the tourism drive had a far bigger impact in rural Ireland than in the cities, and the low Vat rate is needed for the next year at least if the tourism sector is to remain competitive.
"The one thing about the Vat rate and the real economy is that there is a ripple effect. People who work for me and other businesses spend their money locally so real local jobs are retained, which helps every town and village in the country," he told the Sunday Independent.
Maguire, the chef proprietor at MacNean House and restaurant in west Cavan says that the Vat decrease to 9 per cent meant that he could increase his staff number from 40 to 50.
"As I said in the video the lower Vat rate has boosted confidence. Everyone benefits, from our suppliers, our workers and our customers. It's been a huge boost for the industry," Mr Maguire added.
Tourism and hospitality industry chiefs believe that, ultimately, the Government is going to lose out on revenue if, as expected, it increases the rate of Value Added Tax for the hotel and tourism industry from 9 per cent to 13.5 per cent.
The Restaurant Association of Ireland claims that an extra 9,000 jobs in the sector have been created since the tax rate was reduced.
But the signals from Government on retaining the measure have not been encouraging.
Earlier this month, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said retaining the 9 per cent Vat rate for tourism-related goods and services would be very costly and require an increase in taxation or a cut in expenditure.
Mr Noonan said the most recent CSO data for 2012 showed there was a year-on-year growth in gross value added for the accommodation and food services sector.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) believes it is imperative that the Vat reduction in the jobs initiative be retained beyond December 2013.
ISME chief Mark Fielding is convinced that small or medium business are the heartbeat of the economy and have the potential to drive the economy back to growth and sustainability.
"The 2014 Budget must get the balance right between generating savings, primarily through cuts and productivity gains rather than imposing additional taxes, which will hinder economic performance," he said.
In their pre-budget submission, ISME pointed out that with over two-thirds of current expenditure allocated to the public sector and the social welfare budget, focusing on these areas for the bulk of the savings is unavoidable.
But they say the temptation to increase income and employment taxes must be resisted at all costs, as to do so will only delay the long sought-after growth, so crucial to economic development.
On Friday the association reported that business confidence increased by 18 points to 28 per cent in the last quarter.
And business expectations, how businesses view the short to medium-term, increased by 12 points to 32 per cent.
This is the fourth consecutive quarter of growth for these indicators which had previously followed a zig-zag pattern.
Encouragingly, exporters and manufacturers reported confidence levels of 49 per cent and 36 per cent respectively and business expectation levels of 45 per cent and 52 per cent.
The only sector whose business confidence decreased in the last three months was retail, which saw a drop of five points from -4 per cent to -9 per cent.
It is also the only sector to report a negative confidence rating and symptomatic of a broader malaise in retail.