Statements on Budget 2020
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. This is the third time I have prepared a budget submission for the Department of Finance and my focus on each occasion has primarily been on small and medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurship, and the Gaeltacht, culture and the Irish language. A great deal of work went into my submission, as I am sure the Minister of State appreciates. In regard to SMEs, I welcome the direction the Government is taking. I am hearing the same generally from various business organisations. The key employee engagement programme, KEEP, offers benefits for employees. One concern, however, is that when employees are incentivised to work in an SME and have been trained up, a problem may arise for the business in that larger fish in the sector will try to headhunt them. Owners of small businesses do not have finances or resources to compete with the larger companies. In addition, while a share option incentive scheme gives employees an opportunity to own part of the business in which they work, there is a difficulty with how they can realise their cash. A facility should be introduced to allow employees who want to cash in their shares to do so.
I very much welcome the changes to the employment and investment incentives scheme, EIIS. A major issue for those who may not be as connected in business as I am is the requirement for a different means, other than via the pillar banks, of supporting businesses. The EIIS is one such means, but we remain behind every other country in Europe when it comes to incentivising private investors to generate economic activity. It is those businesses which are paying our wages and the Minister of State’s wages. Their owners are the people generating employment, wealth and taxes for the economy. The changes contained in the budget are a move in the right direction but much more is required.
Taking a step back and considering where we are and where we have come from, we can see that the internal aspects of the economy are good, with strong growth, an unemployment rate of 4.5% and a windfall in corporation tax. All of that represents a powerful and positive transition in the right direction. Looking to the external factors, however, there is cause for concern. We will have some input into global tax reform measures but not a great deal of control over them. We are also facing difficulties as a consequence of mounting trade tensions. We heard last week, for example, that Irish dairy exports to the United States will face a 25% tax. This is a serious hit for both small and large businesses in that market. Then, of course, there is Brexit. Let us call a spade a spade. Given all the unknowns it faced in building its budget, the Government has done the best job it could. There are lots of things we would have liked to see included and it is easy for us to say we want this, that and the other. However, it is a different matter when one is sitting in the Minister’s chair and having to make key decisions. It is a difficult job to formulate and draft what the Minister called the architecture of a budget without having a clear view of all its foundations and pillars.
The focus at this time is on stabilising the economy as much as possible as we go through what looks to be an extremely turbulent period. The internal situation, as I said, is strong and positive, but there are major difficulties arising out of what is a dangerous external climate. In that context, I welcome the conservative nature of the budget, which is necessary. I do have concerns regarding the supports for SMEs, which I would have liked to see go further.
Ba mhaith liom cúpla rud a rá i nGaeilge mar gheall ar na Gaeltachtaí, an teanga agus gnóthaí sa Ghaeltacht. Tá na Gaeltachtaí uile ar imeall na hÉireann, idir 150 agus 170 míle ó lár Bhaile Átha Cliath, áit atá sé an-deacair gnó a bhunú. Má theastaíonn uainn an Ghaeilge mar atá sí agamsa agus mo chlann a chaomhnú, caithfear seans a thabhairt do dhaoine poist a fháil sna Gaeltachtaí agus fanacht iontu, seachas dul go Dorchester Avenue i mBostún nó go Chicago. Caithfidh na daoine seo a bheith in ann fanacht sa bhaile. Iarraim ar an Aire Stáit labhairt lena chomhghleacaithe sa Rialtas agus breathnú ar na féidearthachtaí atá ann chun níos mó tacaíochta a thabhairt d’Údarás na Gaeltachta agus do chomhlachtaí beaga atá ag iarradh gnó a bhunú sa Ghaeltacht. Níl an Rialtas ag déanamh leath a dhóthain maidir leis sin. Is rud fíorthábhachtach é seo. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit.