SMEs outline 12 steps to help struggling firms
THE Government needs to focus on the hidden economy and take greater action to free up cashflow for small business, according to a report sent to the Taoiseach yesterday.
The report on the SME sector was submitted by the government-appointed Advisory Group for Small Business (AGSB).
The group, which is headed by Small Business Minister John Perry and includes a number of prominent figures in the SME sector, calls for the Government to take action to allow small and medium enterprises to recover from the crisis.
The group highlights 12 areas for attention in the SME sector but specifically refers to five areas that it calls "make-or-break issues".
These are: "access to finance", "labour costs", "crisis management skills", the "hidden economy", and "access to information" on the SME sector.
The AGSB wants the introduction of a "supply chain fair payment charter" in the public sector to ensure that what the group calls "second-tier subcontractors" are covered under the Prompt Payments Act.
High labour costs are causing enormous difficulty in the sector, the group says. It appears to want action on how the Government makes procurement decisions, which the group say are currently "made on the basis of the lowest cost", squeezing the company bidding for work.
A free phone crisis management service is badly needed now for companies who were set up during the boom and may never have had to deal with difficult times before.
In addition, the group wants the Government to take action on the 'black' economy, especially in areas where businesses can work for cash in hand while illicit trading, such as tobacco smuggling need to be clamped down on.
A "cross governmental awareness campaign" should be implemented to publicise the practice while more container scanners should be posted at ports, the group says.
Finally, the group wants a website to be set up specifically to aid SMEs who are now dealing with a complex number of different business bodies and providers.
Mr Perry described the report as "well considered" and added it would provide a "strong input into the [government's] jobs strategy".