Irish SMEs lead call for 'IDA-style' agency to protect their best interests

18th April 2016 | News

Two of Ireland’s leading business groups representing the interests of small business owners are calling for an “IDA-style” government agency to look after the best interests of the nation’s small business community.

As part of a rare joint initiative, ISME and Retail Excellence Ireland have partnered to submit a document to Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and other parties to raise concerns about government policies for SMEs.

The fact that both groups have joined forces only serves to highlight the growing concern among SMEs that government policies are being skewed to assist foreign-owned multinationals, resulting in indigenous SMEs being left behind.

These business groups are keen to influence future administration as they believe Irish SMEs are still being treated unfairly.

“Relatively stable and focused” government policies have helped take the economy forward, but external factors such as low interest rates, cheaper oil and a competitive euro against sterling and the dollar have boosted things further.

The joint document states the roles of an IDA would be to attract foreign investment and that of Enterprise Ireland in supporting start-ups.

“It must now be time to consider a progression in our national enterprise policy by creating a new state agency that will be tasked with the objective of sustaining and developing business in Ireland, being those entities that are not advocated for by IDA or EI,” the groups say.

“Given that much business in Ireland is effectively family business, it is critical that we start thinking more strategically about multi-generational family business, the bedrock of Germany’s economy, the bedrock of the EU.

“We can start by creating and celebrating a family business day, as they do in Germany every June.”

The groups claim there is an “entrenched view” within government that focuses on the self-employed community merely as “an exchequer cash cow”.

They reiterated their belief that a new government needs to focus on the costs of doing business in Ireland; from insurance and commercial rates to high energy, waste and business labour costs.

Last week, the Central Bank revealed that Irish SMEs pay the highest interest costs for their business loans throughout the Eurozone.

Despite ECB funding costs falling to almost zero, Irish SMEs paid average interest rates of 5.8 per cent last year, while Austrian banks continue to charge their small firms as little as 2.2 per cent interest.

Both the ISME and Retail Excellence Ireland want real change to the public procurement regime too, which they believe “ranks among the weakest in Europe for transparency and clarity”.