Seanad calls for dedicated minister to represent SME sector

The Seanad has, on the back of recommendations from various business groups, called on the Government to introduce a junior ministerial role to represent SMEs, as well as a number of other support measures.

The Seanad Public Consultation Committee wants a junior minister tasked with the development of SME policy and the establishment of a task force to foster growth of small businesses in traditional sectors.

In a wide-reaching report on the needs of the SME sector, the Seanad Committee also calls for a national strategy on female entrepreneurship to help position Ireland as an EU leader in the area of female entrepreneurs.

Its report notes that the amount of Irish SMEs led by females has risen from 8% to 28% in the past six years. Entrepreneurship should also be "embedded" into the national education system from primary school level, it said.

"As a sector, it is diverse and vibrant and accounts for over 99% of active enterprises in Ireland and over 1 million employees," said committee chair Senator Paul Coghlan.

"SMEs are the main source of jobs in the Irish economy and it is important that our Government and Parliament do everything possible to support a sector which is such a key source of employment," he said.

The Seanad Committee's report comes on the back of various business lobby groups warning that increasing business costs and the current tax system are hampering SME growth; as is the competitive staffing environment, banks becoming more risk averse in their lending practices, and current public procurement policy.

Continuous delays to the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan have also hurt SMEs, the Committee said.

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