Small businesses need benchmarking on costs and credit, says ISME

ISME has called for an immediate benchmarking of costs for SMEs, saying that the National Competitiveness Council needs to investigate the matter.

Addressing delegates at the organisation’s annual conference in Dublin, yesterday, ISME chairman, John Ryan said that global economic uncertainty on top of lack of access to credit, high Government-levied operational costs and companies not getting paid on time are “suffocating innovation in business, stopping investment and forcing companies to contract”.

“These issues need to be tackled immediately to ensure Irish business owners and employers continue to take the risk of operating a business in Ireland,” Mr Ryan said.

“We need the National Competitiveness Council to immediately benchmark the costs for SMEs against those of our international competitors, to allow ‘Ireland Inc’ recognise our weaknesses and enact policies to rectify the situation. Only then will SMEs be able to compete on a level playing field,” he added.

ISME also used its conference to call for the establishment of a state investment bank, with a specific remit of lending to the small business community. However, while agreeing with the body’s claims of poor credit facilities for SMEs, Bibby Financial Services said, yesterday, that options still exist.

“The fact is that while traditional lenders are reluctant to lend, there are alternative funding options open to Irish businesses which can simultaneously address the need for flexible funding and the ongoing issue of late payment and SMEs should be made aware that this is the case,” director, Graham Byrne said.

Also speaking at yesterday’s conference was Martin Shanahan, chief executive of Forfas, the Government’s enterprise policy advisory agency. He noted that SMEs should be in a position to “contribute greatly” to Ireland’s economic recovery.

“We’re aware, from our interaction with businesses, that many SMEs are reaching crisis point in these economic conditions. The question is, are we doing enough to make sure fundamentally-sound businesses don’t fail?

“It would be much easier to highlight four or five things that need to be done, but the reality is that what is required now is sustained and concerted action, across Government, on a long list of issues that will enhance businesses ability to do business,” he added.

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