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PQ - Jobs

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation during Ireland's presidency of the EU Council, the number of jobs that were created here as a result of Presidency initiatives, specifically the number of Presidency initiatives that created jobs for young persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 10th July, 2013

REPLY

My Department has played a central role in driving the overarching policy theme of our EU Presidency of “promoting sustainable economic growth and jobs and building Europe’s competitive advantage”.  The issue of employment creation is one that is challenging all Member States across the Union. Under our Presidency we have made progress in a significant number of areas that can create the right environment for growth and employment in accordance with the “Compact for growth and jobs” as agreed by Heads of State and Government in June 2012.

I placed a strong emphasis on advancing measures that can boost the EU’s competitive edge globally. Overall, our Presidency achieved major successes across the policy spectrum and has significantly enhanced the reputation of this country at home and abroad.  Our good standing and reputation is a vital ingredient in making this country attractive to investors and for instilling confidence leading ultimately to jobs and growth. This will assist us in building on the average of 2,000 jobs per month created in the private sector over the last twelve months in contrast to the loss of 7,500 jobs per month during the years 2008-2010.

Within the various Council formations which I had the honour to chair, we succeeded in attaining agreements on all of the significant funding Programmes under the EU’s new 2014-2020 Budget, itself agreed during our Presidency. For example, on the agreement on the new €70 Billion research and development Programme, Horizon 2020, Ireland argued strongly, and successfully, in favour of a greater emphasis on the SME sector.  In addition to new specific supports, such as access to finance and debt and equity facilities, for SMEs, it has now been agreed that the target for SME participation in relevant areas of Horizon 2020 should be increased from 15% to 20%. This is a significant change given the proposed scale of Horizon 2020. In line with the Action Plan for Jobs we will pursue funding and other opportunities under EU Horizon 2020 for specific sectoral activities of national importance and in line with our national research priorities.

Agreement was also achieved on the €2.03 Billion dedicated Programme for Competitiveness and SMEs (COSME Programme) which will provide targeted financial support for SMEs. In particular, I welcome the proposed equity facility for growth-phase investment which will support the development of the EU wide Venture Capital market, as well as the Loan Facility which will provide direct or other risk sharing arrangements with financial intermediaries to cover loans for SMEs. We also built on the progress already made in reducing business costs by the administrative burden reduction efforts of the Commission and Member States. At the end of 2012 annual administrative savings totalling almost €288 million representing a 19% reduction have been achieved for business in Ireland as against 2008.

Proposals on State Aid Modernisation (SAM) were also agreed. These new State Aid Regulations will take account of post-crisis structural reforms and industrial restructuring which Member States are undergoing and the need for better alignment of State Aid with Europe 2020 objectives.

A number of important files which were vital to completing the EU Single Market were also agreed or significantly advanced, including those on recognition of Professional Qualifications, Public Procurement, and the Accounting Directive.   Agreement on these will make it easier to move and work across all Member States and to lower transaction costs for SMEs.

In the area of Patents, remarkable progress was made to complete the Single Market in that sector with the signing of an International Agreement on a Unified Patent Court by 25 participating Member States during the Competitiveness Council on 19th February last. It has been estimated that users of the Unified Patent Court could save somewhere between €148 and €289 million per year, compared to the present costs of €1.5 million in some Member States of such litigation.

Agreement was reached at the EPSCO Council on the Youth Guarantee, which promises to provide young people with a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed. In addition, the European Council approved a Youth Employment Initiative amounting to €6 billion for the period 2014-2020 to support measures aimed at addressing youth unemployment and, in particular, to support the Youth Guarantee for regions with particularly high levels of unemployment. Furthermore, political agreement was reached on the EU programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) with a proposed budget of €815 million for the period 2014-20 period. EaSI will support Member States efforts in the design and implementation of employment and social reforms by means of policy coordination, identification, analysis and the sharing of best practice.

Under Ireland’s Presidency of the EU, we attached great importance to promoting the EU’s external trade agenda for the benefit of Irish companies and for the wider EU economy and its exporters. Trade is essential to job creation: 30 million jobs or 10% of the EU workforce depend on exports.  In June, we reached agreement among EU Trade Ministers on the mandate to start talks on an EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Reaching agreement among EU Trade Ministers on the terms of the EU’s negotiating mandate has been a top priority for the Irish Presidency. According to assessments made by the EU Commission and other European bodies, a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S and the EU could over time boost EU GDP by 0.5% per annum and help create approximately 400,000 jobs in the EU.  Based on those assessments, if Ireland simply benefitted in proportion to the size of our economy, a comprehensive trade and investment partnership could over time provide gains to Ireland in the order of €800 million per annum in increased GDP, and 4000 new jobs

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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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To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the fact that the private sector has not delivered the number of jobs predicted, his views on whether it is time for the State sector to take a different approach and play a direct role in job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

-Mick Wallace. 

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 23rd April, 2013.

REPLY

Job creation is a key priority for the Government.  As I have pointed out on many occasions, the Government does not create jobs – entrepreneurs and successful businesses do.  However, the Government has a lead role to play in providing the environment where businesses can start-up, expand and create jobs.

The Action Plan for Jobs has set the objective of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs in the economy by 2016 and making Ireland the best small country in which to do business.  My role and that of other Government Ministers and Departments is to ensure that we have the right policies in place to support enterprise growth and innovation so that employment can be created and maintained.

The Action Plan for Jobs focuses on the creation of a supportive environment for businesses so that they can retain existing jobs and create new ones.  We are transforming our economy, step by step, by taking measures across all Government Departments and many State agencies to remove administrative burdens on business, improve their access to finance, further improve our export performance and support the development of key growth sectors.

The Action Plan for Jobs is aimed at supporting the transition from the old, failed economy reliant on property, banking and debt to a new, sustainable, jobs-rich economy based on enterprise, exports and innovation. In the year since we launched the first plan that transition has been gathering momentum, with 12,000 net jobs added in the private sector in 2012 and a record year for job-creation by exporting companies in multinational and indigenous sectors in the same year.

One of the significant benefits of the approach taken in the Action Plan is that is has focussed Agencies and Departments right across Government to put forward measures that would make it easier for enterprises to develop opportunities and create employment. It is not of course possible to attach a specific job’s target to many of these actions.

The results from 2012 demonstrate that the plan is working. However, the Government acknowledges that we have a long way to go.  If we are to sustain and accelerate this positive movement, we must continue a relentless focus across Government on jobs and competitiveness.  The challenge now is to build on the progress we have made, work harder, deliver more ambitious change – and we are determined to do that to tackle our number one priority and create the jobs we need.

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To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the publication date for the Action Plan for Jobs 2013; if all actions set out in the Action Plan for Jobs 2012 will be achieved before work on the 2013 plan commences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. - Mick Wallace. For ORAL answer on Thursday, 24th January, 2013.   REPLY Work on the Action Plan for Jobs 2013 has already been underway for several months, The Government recently held a special cabinet meeting on jobs, as we did last year, to ensure that every opportunity has been taken across Government to support this central priority of Government.   I am currently finalising the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs on behalf of the Government. The Action Plan will be published in the coming weeks and will once again include a range of actions to be delivered across Government that will improve the operating environment for business, improve Ireland’s competitiveness and support job creation. This plan is a key instrument in our objective to transform the economy from one that became over dependent on property, construction and debt to one focused on enterprise, innovation and exports.   A final Quarterly Progress Report on the implementation of the Action Plan in 2012 will be published very shortly. I anticipate that, in keeping with the high level of implementation reported for the first three Quarters of 2012, the final Progress Report for 2012 will indicate an implementation rate close to95% for all actions which were due to have been delivered last year. Any actions which were not fully implemented in 2012 will, for the most part, be included in the 2013 Action Plan for completion. Often, this was due to slower than anticipated delivery of new legislation. A very small number of actions which were not possible to implement due, for example, to budgetary constraints, will be replaced with other deliverables in 2013.   Key objectives have been realised under the Action Plan for Jobs in 2012, including implementation of measures to improve competitiveness, access to finance, support to enterprise and the development of sectoral strategies to protect and create employment.   2012 also saw significant net job creation by EI and IDA-supported companies, building on the positive results of 2011 and following successive years of significant net job losses.   We will continue to build on this progress in 2013 through the Action Plan for Jobs process.

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