Ireland will be able to exit bailout thanks to the ‘courage of SMEs’

John Fanning, lecturer in branding and marketing communications of Smurfit Business School, speaking at the Isme annual conference in the RDS yesterday. Picture: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Small firms lobby group Isme has criticised Government policy relating to its sector, stating that Ireland would not be able to exit its troika bailout programme without the economic contribution made by SMEs.

“Ireland would not be preparing to exit the bailout at the end of this year if it had not been for the sheer hard work and courage of SME owner-managers throughout the crisis,” Isme chairman, Eamonn Kielty, told delegates at his organisation’s annual conference in Dublin, yesterday.

“SMEs are the cornerstone of this economy and yet our needs are continuously ignored by a government that allows high business costs to prohibit opportunities for owner-managers to create employment,” he added.

Mr Kielty said SMEs are effectively being excluded from the public procurement process, with firms in danger of suffering from shrinking competition levels in the banking sector.

“Our government must rethink its stance on procurement. It must recognise that decisions must take long-term national economic interest into account. The law of comparative advantage is not infallible, and few Irish citizens will applaud the Government for resolutely following it, while Ireland’s small and medium enterprises go to the wall,” he said.

Mr Kielty also repeated a long-standing ISME request, that the Government must develop a development fund for the wealth-generating SME sector. This, he added, would introduce competition into the “dangerously concentrated market”.

A normal competitive banking market no longer exists in Ireland, he said. “As foreign banks exit stage left, the remaining bailed-out two will, no doubt, take advantage of the lack of competition to hike up their charges.”

The Government must ensure that steps are taken by the Central Bank to protect small business from the gouging usually associated with Irish banks, he said.


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