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The Punt: ISME chief Mark Fielding's next missive

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Mark Fielding, Chief Executive, ISME

Mark Fielding, Chief Executive, ISME

Mark Fielding, Chief Executive, ISME

Regular readers of the Punt will know that Isme boss Mark Fielding is a favourite around these parts.

Fielding shoots from the hip and never ceases to entertain. His pugnacious style is good for Isme's profile and helps mitigate the fact that it has fewer resources than its rival the Small Firms Association.

The Punt gets a little tingle of excitement when an Isme email arrives. Yesterday's missive focused on the new Action Plan for Jobs.

"This version must concentrate on disruptive reforms to address the issues stifling the SME sector such as high business costs, red tape and social welfare traps which diminish competitiveness," Fielding opined.

There was some thinly-veiled criticism of the preferential treatment the tax system gives to PAYE workers.

"Ireland must strive to be a great place in which to establish a start-up, not a place where we face significantly higher taxes for daring to be self-employed," Fielding said.

The Punt was already chuckling,

"If Government wants to encourage more people to become entrepreneurs and to be job-creators they must treat entrepreneurs fairly in the taxation system," Fielding added.

Directorship posts at SBCI

The Government is looking to fill directorship posts on the board of the new Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, which was set up to provide cheap loans to small and medium businesses through the banks.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is looking for four directors with extensive experience as either a senior manager in the banking and finance sector with a focus on SMEs, or a senior manager in an area of non-bank finance, or with policy experience and wide-ranging comprehension of challenges facing the SME sector.

Anybody who has experience managing or setting up an SME is also eligible to apply. That's a fairly wide remit, and you would assume that one of the posts would be filled by a senior figure either in ISME or the Small Firms Association, with the former in particular expressing some reservations about the SBCI. The Department said the SBCI hopes to have the first round of lending done by the end of March, with new non-bank lenders to the market in quarter two or quarter three.

"As agreements with the SBCI lending partners are completed and become operational throughout 2015, SMEs will be able to avail of innovative and new SBCI products that encourage and enable SMEs to grow." the Department said yesterday.

Sorry minister, no more cuts

WHO is afraid of Energy Minister Alex White?

Well, not the energy companies in this country if a series of meetings he had with them and the outcome of same is anything to go by.

Mr White dragged the chief executives of the main energy firms into his office in the past few days to explain why they are not passing on record falls in wholesale and oil prices to domestic customers.

A similar approach in Britain of getting energy firm bosses into government offices has seen each of the so-called big six announce cuts to their standard prices in recent weeks.

Again, the cuts in the UK were low, but the issue of high energy costs is a much bigger one in Britain than it is here.

Here, both Bord Gáis Energy and SSE Airtricity responded to the minister's urgings with single-digit cuts in their residential tariffs.

Electric Ireland had introduced a small cut in electricity prices before Christmas.

Mr White also met with Electric Ireland, Energia and Prepay Power. But it seems they have no immediate plans for reductions, or another one in the case of Electric Ireland.

All the companies stressed to him the savings that consumers could make by switching suppliers and availing of discount rates, a statement from Mr White's office said.

So, no more cuts then, is what the energy firms seem to have been telling Mr White.

Maybe it's time the energy companies were regulated on price again.

Irish Independent