Taoiseach says jobs plan 'working'

Wed, Oct 17, 2012, 01:00

The Government has announced that the €450 million credit guarantee scheme for small businesses will begin operating from next Wednesday.

The scheme, aimed at ensuring some 5,600 businesses can avail of credit lines, is one of the main initiatives in the Coalition's Action Plan for Jobs.

At a press conference this morning to outline progress on implementing the plan, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the credit guarantee scheme would be essential as part of the Government's "mission of getting Ireland working again".

The action plan for jobs has promised to implement 270 specific measures this year to promote job creation in the economy. The Government has undertaken to publish quarterly reports on the progress achieved.

The press conference, also attended by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, heard that all but nine of the 67 actions for the third quarter had been completed. It also heard that a small number of targets missed in previous quarters had now been met.

As well as the credit guarantee scheme, the Government also said its Microfinance Fund had been in operation since the start of the month. The fund lends sums of up to €25,000 to businesses with 10 employees or less, which have had difficulty accessing credit from banks.

Both measures are aimed at addressing complaints from small and medium sized firms who say they are encountering substantial difficulties in obtaining credit to run their operations.

On the nine measures not achieved, Mr Kenny said that most of those had been delayed because they required legislation. He said there was a backlog caused by the raft of priority Bills going through the Oireachtas.

They included getting downward pressure on insurance and legal costs; revision of foreshore licence legislation; the new employment rights legislation; and the issuing of a certificate to those over one year unemployed to allow them enter specific programmes.

The overall aim of the action plan is to create 100,000 jobs in the Irish economy by 2016.

The Ministers contended that while unemployment remains high, job-provision has started to grow in more sustainable sectors since March 2011.

Asked if it was a box-ticking exercise, Mr Kenny said that the plan involved a whole of Government approach to job creation.

"The agencies and departments are working together. There's no glory in ticking all of these boxes. The impact of the actual plan for jobs which is overseen by the Department of the Taoiseach together with the Department of Jobs and Enterprise show that they are implemented and working."

The Government's first jobs initiative, which predates this plan, was announced in May 2011 and promised the creation of 13,000 jobs funded by, among other things, a levy on private pension plans. The focus was on tourism and on “shovel-ready” projects in education, transport and elsewhere.

Asked about progress on this plan, Mr Bruton pointed out that there was a long lead-in time between announcement and implementation, because of the tendering process for public-private partnerships and other contracts. It was still too early to make an assessment, he said.

Mr Gilmore said: "Look at what we are doing here. The mission of Government is in relation to economic recovery. Everything we are doing right across Government is focused on that,” he said.

"The action plan is our grid to do a kind of self-assessment on the work that is done across Departmetns in meeting those objectives. From quarter to quarter we will meet areas that are slipping. This is a way that we are saying to us that we are falling behind in the area."

Sinn Féin spokesman on jobs Peadar Tóibín said it was bizarre that Mr Kenny, Mr Gilmore and Mr Bruton "congratulating themselves for partially implementing their jobs plan despite the economy losing 33,400 jobs last year".

“The Government promised an additional 100,000 jobs over four years in the Action Plan for Jobs. Since then long term unemployment has increased to 60 per cent of all those unemployed, and 450,000 people are [still] on the Live Register," he said.