SMEs ‘happier with Government’

There has been an increase in satisfaction with the Government’s performance in key areas of economic management among the SME sector, according to a survey by the Irish Small to Medium Enterprise Association.

The survey of more than 800 SMEs showed a satisfaction rating of -57 compared with -62 in the autumn. Respondents are asked how they feel about the Government’s handling of key sectors such as jobs, banking, business costs, and dealing with the troika.

Isme CEO Mark Fielding said: “The slight improvement in overall satisfaction ratings reflects the SME business reaction to the 2013 Budget, announced the previous week, which had, for the first time in years, focused on the SME sector. In line with the previous three quarters’ surveys, banking and business costs and the Government’s efforts to sort them out come in for the most negative scores.

“The results indicate business desire for a renewed effort from Government to take the tough decisions to renegotiate the Croke Park agreement and tackle the self-interest of the bailed-out banks. Then we will see a faster restoration of competitiveness, an increased access to finance, leading to job retention and creation.”

The jobs’ rating index improved from -66 to -57 on the basis that no changes to statutory sick pay entitlements were announced in the budget. However, disappointment with the abolishment of the redundancy rebate weighed on the satisfaction rating improving further, said Isme.

Dissatisfaction at the banking system scores highest among the sub-categories, at -74. A number of reports during the year show that the Irish SME has among the most challenging conditions across the eurozone for accessing credit.

“The fact that the Government has had to introduce the Microfinance and Partial Guarantee indicates precisely the negative input of the banks since being bailed out in Sept 2008,” said Mr Fielding.

On the other hand, management of the EU/IMF bailout programme gets the highest satisfaction rating, at -23.

But there is a high dissatisfaction rating among SMEs on the issue of business costs. The index is at -72, although this has improved from -76. The focus of the dissatisfaction was the failure to tackle the Croke Park agreement and the implications for business costs.

“[Isme urges] a renewed Government effort to tackle the key issues of costs, jobs, and access to finance, and prioritise the restoration of our competitiveness by addressing public sector costs, exposing sheltered sectors to greater competition, and achieving greater access to bank credit for SME business,” said Mr Fielding.


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