Small Business Column: Will a new face at Cabinet bring anything new for SMEs?

The Cabinet reshuffle has seen a lot of new faces around the government. Ged Nash is now the Junior Minister in charge of small business, which includes collective bargaining. KEHLAN KIRWAN asks will a new face bring anything new for SMEs?

Small Business Column: Will a new face at Cabinet bring anything new for SMEs?

The recent Cabinet reshuffle brought some much-needed rejuvenation to a Government who, after just three years, was looking tired, as poor decisions and bad news crept more and more into the headlines.

However, the reshuffle seems to have brought a new pep to the step of the Government and for small business a new name to turn to.

Gerald ‘Ged’ Nash is now the Junior Minister under the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, with specific remit for small business and collective bargaining. His new position will now cover the country’s largest employment sector and will influence those they hire as well.

His skills will be put to the test almost immediately, as the Low Pay Commission looks to introduce a higher mandatory ‘liveable wage’ across the country.

The commission is in its early stages, but there are whispers which seem to suggest that the €10.50 per hour mark and upwards is what will be the likely outcome. This will not come as welcome news to employers who won’t be enamoured with the idea of having to pay out more from their overheads.

This, however, will be welcome news to unemployment and low-paid representatives who have long argued that Ireland makes itself an expensive country to live in. Everybody is worried about the bottom line.

John Perry, Nash’s predecessor, was a small business owner, himself, but ran into trouble in a very public way because of it. Perry was also seen as a mouthpiece for government, rather than providing a robust representation for SMEs he was seen as the seller of government wares.

Nash is seen as more of a provider than a giver. He is now expected to provide ideas and legislation which will, ultimately, benefit small business across the country. Talking the talk just isn’t cutting it with SMEs anymore. A lot will be expected of him and those in the SME sector will have their eye on him to see what exactly he can do.

‘Do’ being the operative word. Year after year government has been called upon to have an ‘open dialogue’ with the business community across Ireland and yet the same issues continue to sit atop the ‘to-do’ list of government policy.

In last year’s budget it seemed as if SMEs were being brought to the forefront in economic strategy; with a number of implementations designed specifically for the sector. It was a positive move and provided SMEs with hope that the tackling of issues would not go unheard.

However, now Nash must prepare to provide a real and usable mandate for his period in office and, above all else, provide a meaningful agenda for business. He won’t get a honeymoon period, as many businesses don’t have the luxury of time.

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