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Bruton 'punching in the dark' with jobs budget plan

THE Government still has no idea how many jobs -- if any -- will be created as a result of the 'jobs budget' next month, a letter marked "personal" by the Jobs Minister, Richard Bruton, clearly illustrates.

The letter, dated April 2011, asks "leading private companies" if they "feel it possible" to identify "potential" jobs and internships they "may be able to offer" as a result of specific measures the Government intends to introduce.

Mr Bruton also asks whether the companies "would be happy for us to highlight" what can only amount to such aspirational positions, including internships abroad, as part of what he calls an "integrated jobs plan".

Yesterday, Willie O'Dea, the Fianna Fail enterprise spokesman, said the letter "completely exposes" in advance government "spin" on the jobs budget.

"This letter paints a picture of a guy punching in the dark. The minister is obviously clueless," Mr O'Dea said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently caused some controversy when he rebranded the jobs budget a "jobs initiative". In his letter, however, Mr Bruton calls the event scheduled for May a "jobs budget".

He informs some of the leading business people in the country that it is his task to "drive policies" that "strengthen the capacity" of enterprises to "create good jobs in sustainable markets".

He declares himself to be "determined" that the "jobs budget" will make an "important start" to get costs for business down, improve access to finance and support innovation.

He then outlines specific measures that he says are being considered for the jobs budget. These include:

• Reducing the 13.5 per cent rate of VAT.

• Improving the take up of the research and development tax credit.

• Halving the lower 8.5 per cent rate of PRSI up to the end of 2013.

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• Improving access to credit for business through a partial loan guarantee scheme.

• Increasing the number of opportunities for young people to participate in internships and other placements.

But the most extraordinary aspect of Mr Bruton's letter, however, is what then follows: "I would ask if you feel it is possible to identify potential employment or internship opportunities for Irish people..." either in Ireland or internationally.

"If you believe this is a possibility, I would appreciate if you could let me know the number of employment or internship opportunities ... which you believe ... you may be able of offer".

Mr Bruton goes further to ask these business people whether they would be "happy" for the Government to "highlight" what could only be described as aspirational positions as part of what the minister calls an "integrated jobs plan".

The Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation also, helpfully, attached a "short format" for a response, which he said he would be grateful to have sent to him via return post by this Friday, April 29.

Yesterday Mr O'Dea said: "The minister is an academic economist. He has spent years in opposition drafting up policy documents, gimmicky things, which sound good.

"Let us not forget, the Fine Gael NewERA document promises to deliver 105,000 jobs. Michael Noonan dismissed NewERA and its fanciful targets as a 'PR add-on'.

"This letter proves Noonan was right. But this letter also shows the extent to which these gimmicky things have been thought out -- they haven't been thought out at all. We now see that the whole jobs budget is a shot in the dark."

Mr O'Dea predicted what would happen as a result of the letter from Mr Bruton: "Obviously business people will feel obliged to reply to a letter from the minister. The minister will then tot up all of these supposed jobs.

"On jobs budget day, the Government will announce that, say, 5,000 jobs will be created as a result, when, in fact, the reality may be that, say, 500 positions, if that, may be created.

"But to finance the creation of even that number of positions, the Government is going to have made cuts elsewhere. For example, its proposal to half the PRSI rate is going to cost €400m. That €400m is going to have to be found somewhere.

"This letter from the minister you have just read to me, it exposes the whole thing. It's just daft," Mr O'Dea said.

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