Stimulus plan is 'make or break' for Cork firms

Stimulus plan is 'make or break' for Cork firms
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has promised a "radical" and "far-reaching" set of initiatives for the Government's stimulus plan

This week’s stimulus package will be a case of “make or break” for many businesses, Cork Chamber has warned, while calling on the Government to provide a tailored suite of “extraordinary measures” to avoid more business closures and job losses.

The Chamber said 73% of businesses it has surveyed have reported a decrease in turnover during the second-quarter of the year, with 43% expecting that trend to continue throughout the current quarter.

“This level of Covid business impact is not sustainable and unless extraordinary measures are taken by government, we will see business closures and major job losses,” said Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy.

He said while the initial Covid responses – such as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the temporary wage subsidy scheme and the illness benefit – have been essential in maintaining economic activity and retaining jobs, a more focused approach is needed with this week’s package.

“It is not a case that one size fits all here,” Mr Healy said.

“There will need to be exceptional supports in terms of timeframes and impact put in place for the most vulnerable sectors such as tourism and hospitality. However, this cannot be to the exclusion of other challenged sectors that require continued support,” he said.

Extension and reform of the wage subsidy scheme, clarification around and an extension of commercial rates waivers, more expansive grant aid, a fit-for-purpose loan scheme underwritten by the State, and clear commitments to Government spending in the short-term on infrastructure and housing projects are all needed in the July package if it is to “truly support our vulnerable enterprises,” Cork Chamber said.

The business conference sector is fearful of being overlooked and forgotten in this week’s stimulus plan. The Association of Irish Professional Conference Organisers – AIPCO – wants a grant scheme and a Vat exemption for business tourism to form part of the plan. Resources for Fáilte Ireland – to secure the immediate future of the business tourism sector and to secure new leads for next year – should be significantly increased, it said.

“While international conferences fall under the banner of tourism in the minds of many, they are equally important in generating business and supporting multiple sectors,” said AIPCO chairman Ronan Flood.

Ireland’s knowledge economy is driven by international visitors to these events, and for years we have been punching above our weight in terms of the type of events we have hosted.

 

The hard-fought-for pipeline is at very real risk, simply because the companies that would host those conferences may not be there to help plan and organise them. We are asking the Government to consider a more long-term approach, support conference organisers during the immediate crisis, and help to properly showcase Ireland in a post-Covid world,” he said.

Meanwhile, publican groups have reiterated their call for a temporary drop from 23% to 9% in Vat for on-trade alcohol, saying the decision to delay the reopening of pubs means the move is now of “utmost urgency” with pubs facing their “worst year in history”.

“A temporary Vat decrease would be universally beneficial. It would help all pubs in one direct measure that is administratively easy to implement. It would allow pubs to recoup some of the money that they have spent investing in the costs of reopening and make it easier for them to repay debt and cover for reduced capacity due to social distancing,” said Drinks Ireland director Patricia Callan.

We believe the postponement has only made our proposed temporary VAT decrease even more pressing.

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