State supports for businesses facing the dual threats of further Covid-19 challenges and Brexit must not be withdrawn unless there is a long-term recovery plan, the incoming president of lobby group Ibec has said.
Alastair Blair, country managing director for Accenture in Ireland, warned of the near-term threats facing businesses as he delivered his first speech as Ibec's new president for 2020 to 2021.
“We know that these twin crises bring long-term structural damage to our economy, and so the withdrawal of supports must not happen without a long-term recovery plan in place,” he said.
“The need for better infrastructure, for example better transport, and the rapid roll out of broadband to all parts of the country could not be more stark at this time. We need to ensure that no part of the country is left behind – we cannot create a divide – least of all a digital divide.”
Mr Blair went on to call for an improvement in the quality of life for citizens in the State through better healthcare, more effective childcare and the provision of affordable housing.
“And then there is education,” he said. “Access to strong education has been at the heart of Ireland’s appeal over many decades – coupled with a ‘can-do’ attitude. Skills will be key to our nation’s economic recovery. As a small but highly adaptable nation we need to refocus on the learning path – not the path to learning.”
Mr Blair succeeds Dalata chief executive Pat McCann as Ibec’s president.
At the president’s dinner, which was this year held remotely, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government’s aim was to protect “as many jobs as possible”, support “businesses big and small” and help those who have lost their jobs to reskill.
"We are at present at a difficult and uncertain period for our country and Irish business. In a few short months we've gone from record employment and a balanced budget to a deep recession, the type of which we have not seen before. I'm confident we will not be found wanting in our response," Mr Martin said.
Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy noted that Mr Blair was a “recognised leader in the field of European business”.
“His experience and insights will no doubt support our efforts over the coming year to help navigate the economy through the dual threats of Brexit and Covid,” said Mr McCoy.