A blueprint for Ireland's recovery


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:1 Renewing enterprise and employment

Ireland needs to focus on those sectors capable of delivering growth both in the area of foreign direct investment and indigenous industry with the ultimate objective of boosting employment growth.

There is significant growth potential in the areas of life sciences, medical devices and the ICT and creative industry sector.

Sectors such as manufacturing, food, green technology and tourism are capable of growing and – as they are employment-intensive sectors – merit particular attention.

* Ireland can and must become the most competitive euro zone country by 2016. We need to continue to drive down payroll and non-payroll costs through greater efficiency.

* Two dedicated ministers should be appointed: a minister for competitiveness to drive the economic programme and a minister for public service reform who should ideally not be members of Dáil Éireann and could be appointed through the Seanad. the minister for public service reform would be the chief operations officer for the government.

* Specific key performance indicators should be set and measured regularly and heard in open forum before two specific Joint Oireachtas Committees on competitiveness and public service reform.

* The Government must do everything in its power to foster growth including:

Ireland should promote start-up SMEs by providing them with exemptions from corporation tax and PRSI in their first three years.

Target emerging markets and companies in southeast Asia and strengthen the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland presence in these markets with a target of 20 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI) by 2015 from this region.

* Introduce new intellectual property (IP) legislation to foster investment in R&D.

* Introduce a new graduate internship programme aimed at placing 10 graduate interns in each major company with an overall target of 10,000 internships.

* Create a central life sciences access office jointly in the Health Services Executive (HSE) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to facilitate interaction between clinicians and life science companies.

* Facilitate collaborative life science research through a health information Bill.

* Develop and implement a national policy on bio-banking.

* Review our structures of third-level institutions to ensure that Ireland has a university of world standing.

* Reduce cost of access to Ireland by selling our airports and ports to operators on condition they significantly reduce access cost.

* Ensure we have more diverse and secure energy supplies including tidal, wave and wind and examine the value of fourth-generation nuclear. Effective competition in the energy market is also essential.

* Restructure local government and drastically reduce commercial rates costs to business.

* Reduce the cost of regulation and government services to business.

* Commence work on all shovel-ready construction projects.

* Examine incentives for major buildings for companies wishing to headquarter in Ireland and ensure we have sufficient and efficient facilities for inward-investing companies.

* The new minister in the department of enterprise and employment should have the title and portfolio of minister for business and job creation.

* A retrofit scheme targeting older housing stock supply.

* Expedite plans to secure long-term supplies of clean water to homes and industry.

2 Re-engineering banking and finance

Ireland needs to adopt a multilateral and a Europe-wide approach to resolving long-term funding issues.

We need to engage with our European partners and ensure a team of senior people is in place at political and Civil Service levels to effectively interface with our European colleagues.

One of the objectives of our long-term strategy should be the creation of a true long-term bond market and there needs to be a linkage between economic growth and the costs of funds from both the IMF and the EU.

The structure of our banking sector needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. Our two main banks need a fresh impetus by being sold and they are now close to a position that will attract interest from global financial institutions. There should be a clear process and six-month timeline set on any sale of our two main banks.

The Government should also be the catalyst to create a third force in banking.

A guarantee scheme for small business is an urgent priority and should not be limited to certain categories of businesses.

3 Restoring Ireland’s tarnished reputation

Ireland’s reputation has been damaged over the last two years. A global communications campaign designed to address these issues needs to be urgently implemented by a new Government in collaboration with business, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland. Key influential members of the diaspora should be enlisted and kept up to date weekly on developments so that they can comment and influence opinion around the globe.

Ireland must actively engage with our European partners in a constructive and positive fashion. This must be led by a dedicated senior team of ministers. The European Union is central to our economic and financial future success and we need to proactively communicate with all of the institutions on a regular and systematic basis.

It is imperative that Ireland’s economic partners around the globe understand that Ireland is getting back on its feet, that Ireland is open for business and that there never was a better time to invest in Ireland. One of the first things that a new minister for business and jobs must to do is to engage with the senior management of the top 100 companies that have invested significantly in Ireland, both foreign and domestic. Modern communications technology can be used to carry out this task expeditiously.

It is essential that the Irish public are engaged in any process of rebuilding. There is evidence at ground level of initiatives being taken by communities. This level of activity can be built on to help turn the country around.

4 Reforming Ireland’s public services and making Government more efficient

Many deficiencies in how our country is governed – about the lack of vigilance and oversight in our Oireachtas, public service, government and regulatory agencies – have been exposed in this current crisis.

There needs to be two statutory commissions established within three months of the election of the Government to address two concerns: first, improving our Oireachtas and the electoral system; and second, reforming the public service and local government.

These commissions should be resourced with the necessary external expertise, consult widely and report back within 12 months with their recommendations.

There are four main areas of concern:

* Ensuring we have a modernised electoral system that attracts talented people into politics and ensures that our politicians are primarily good policymakers and legislators.

* Ensuring that we have an Oireachtas that is efficient and vigilant, not dominated by the government, and that keeps the government accountable.

* The need for a completely revamped structure of local government organised on a regional basis.

* Ensuring that we have a modern and fit-for-purpose public service, plus more efficient and effective delivery of public services.

Each government department should have an advisory board to advise on policy and its impact, to assist with advice on delivery of a policy programme and to help monitor progress.

Careful consideration is needed of the future role of semi-State companies. The sale of these should be considered but on condition that such a sale will have overall strategic benefits for the economy, for example, reduced costs and improved service.

The Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (McCarthy report) began a review of State agencies and quangos. There should now be a more root-and-branch review of these agencies based on the principle that they should only exist where they have a specific purpose and their existence should be reviewed annually. There should be strict criteria based on expertise and experience for membership of any State board.

The public must be consulted from the beginning about any changes to our electoral system and about their ideas and suggestions about how to improve how the country is governed.