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To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to alleviate the problems of small and medium-sized businesses that are not involved in the export market and still face great difficulty in accessing credit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 22nd May, 2013.

R E P L Y

My Department has introduced two targeted initiatives to support an additional flow of credit into the economy by filling gaps where specific market failures exist and are not directly involved in the export market – the Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) and the Microenterprise Loan Fund.

The CGS has been live since 24th October 2012 and is intended to address market failure affecting commercially viable businesses.  It provides a 75% State guarantee to banks against losses on qualifying loans to firms with growth and job creation potential.

Target groups are commercially viable SMEs, i.e. well performing companies that have a solid business plan and a defined market for their products or services, thereby demonstrating their ability to repay the loan, but that cannot secure credit facilities due to the following two market failures:

1)         Insufficient collateral for the additional facilities, or,

2)         Growth / expansionary SMEs which due to their sectors, markets or business model are perceived as a higher risk under current credit risk evaluation practices.

To be eligible for the guarantee, the business must have applied for credit, and must have been refused for either of these two reasons.  Ulster Bank, AIB and Bank of Ireland are participating in the Scheme.

The second initiative is the Microenterprise Loan Fund which was established by Government, and began operating on 1st October 2012, to improve access to credit for entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises and to facilitate the growth and expansion of viable businesses from all industry sectors which have been refused access to credit by banks.

The Fund will provide support in the form of loans of up to €25,000, available to start-up, newly established, or growing microenterprises employing less than 10 people, with commercially viable proposals that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks.  To be eligible for a loan, persons must possess a business plan, must have a commercially viable proposal, must confirm that they have been refused credit from a bank, and must have the capacity to repay the loan.  The potential viability of the business proposal will be the dominant factor in all credit decisions.

The Government has also set the pillar bank lending targets so that they rise incrementally with expected demand, with targets of €4bn in 2013, increased from €3.5bn in 2012. Both banks met the targets for 2012. To ensure information on the demand side is accurate and up to date, the Department of Finance continues to conduct bi-annual surveys of SMEs to assess credit demand and loan approval rates.

Quarterly progress reports on the CGS are published on my Department’s website (www.enterprise.gov.ie). The new progress report detailing the analysis and performance of the CGS for the quarterly period ending end 31st March 2013 is now available on my Department’s website.  Also, a full progress report on the operation of Microfinance Ireland from 1 October 2012 to 31 March 2013 can be found on my Department’s website (www.enterprise.gov.ie) and the Microfinance Ireland website (www.microfinanceireland.ie).

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