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Saturday 20 January 2018

Enda Kenny’s jobs gamble to get the country working

Fionnan Sheahan, Thomas Molloy and Maeve Dineen

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is gambling on small businesses from home and abroad to solve the unemployment crisis during the lifetime of his Government.

Mr Kenny is promising to create 100,000 jobs within the next five years with an aspirational plan to kick-start the business community.

One of the key elements of the plan is to help small businesses get access to finance.

A second major initiative will be to use the carrot of a finder's fee for anybody who persuades new foreign investors to establish a small to medium sized business here.

All told, the Government is ambitiously predicting that 200,000 new jobs will be created within the next decade.

The proposals aim to create conditions that will allow businesses to develop, and then rely on entrepreneurs and companies to pick up the baton.

The entire process will be policed by a supervisory committee of three departments, led by the Taoiseach's own office.

However, there is no significant budget attached to the plan and no penalties for ministers who fail to deliver.

Mr Kenny promised that his Government would be accountable and held up to scrutiny under the plan.

"I take this very seriously. I'm not one for saying 'you've got to have 17 proposals done by the end of next month'. I will publish the progress made at the end of each quarter, so it becomes perfectly obvious where difficulties are arising," he said.

The plan contains a total of 270 measures to be delivered this year in 15 government departments and 36 state agencies -- with another plan coming next year.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton insisted there was an agency or a department responsible for each item.

And while he admitted some of the proposals were old, he said they now had a specific timeline attached "so there will be direct accountability".

"The Taoiseach and his central department of the Taoiseach's office will hold people to account for the delivery of these actions," Mr Bruton added.

Despite the promises, there are still question marks over how a variety of the proposals announced yesterday will actually work.

The plan includes ways to help small businesses access credit using the following methods:

- A state guarantee for 75pc of loans to businesses.

- Micro-financing investment to small companies of up to €25,000.

- A €100m fund for potential exporting companies.

- A strategic investment fund matching private investment with €250m State funding.

The bulk of the new proposals are aimed at assisting Irish entrepreneurs to start up and grow their companies, including:

- Corporation tax exemption for start-up companies until 2014;

- A One-Stop-Shop for small business run by Enterprise Ireland in council offices;

- A new unit of Enterprise Ireland to target potential exporters.

A specific focus will be put on developing technology jobs in health, life sciences and digital gaming. A dedicated IFSC-style centre for digital companies, the International Digital Services Centre, will be set up.

And aside from homegrown jobs, the Government is also targeting foreign investment in small businesses.

A new body is being set up to sell Ireland to business people thinking about coming to this country with a reward to those involved in securing the jobs.

The coalition is planning to pay individuals involved in tipping off entrepreneurs about the merits of setting up in Ireland.

The plan is being described as a "privatised IDA" and will result in a finders' fee of €4,000 per job to anybody who points to an investor here and succeeds in bringing major job projects to Ireland.

The new agency will be connected to the IDA, but aims to attract companies who are not normally caught in the net of the State job creation agencies. This new agency will sell the country's advantages, such as low taxes, competitiveness and an educated workforce, to businesses thinking about setting up here.

The Government's aim is to attract greater numbers of inward investors to Ireland.

To entice foreign start-ups, a specific €10m fund is available, with promises for faster immigration and marketing.

Mr Kenny said creating jobs and reducing unemployment was the Government's number one priority.

"Unemployment is about loss -- loss of talent, loss of opportunity and loss of people," he said.

Mr Bruton said there was an action for every working day of the coming year, "which will be implemented to make a difference to job creation in our society".

The country's largest business representative group, IBEC, welcomed the plan on jobs and called for "coordinated and swift implementation across all departments".

"While businesses will create jobs, the Government has a major role to play in putting in place the right environment," IBEC director general Danny McCoy said.

But Fianna Fail jobs spokesman Willie O'Dea said the plan contained a "significant lack of imagination" and focused more on organisational changes than stimulus measures to create jobs

"I am particularly concerned that the temporary Partial Credit Guarantee for small businesses has been announced so many times that businesses would be under the impression they can access it already.

"They will be very disappointed," he said.

Sinn Fein jobs spokesman Peadar Toibin said the government proposals were "mostly a rehash" of proposals already unveiled.

"The plan is to implement them within existing, significantly reduced, budgets. In the build-up to the announcement we were promised much; however on publication we find no new money and no meaningful targets," he said.

Irish Independent

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