Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Small firms 'key to recovery hopes'

Greater use of the skills and experiences of businesses could save the Exchequer money, says Ibec

Business groups have demanded that Government put private sector firms at the heart of economic recovery.

Ibec claimed greater use of the skills and experiences of businesses could save the Exchequer money and help deliver services more effectively.

The Small Firms Association (SFA) and Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) also demanded the coalition act to boost consumer confidence and create jobs.

Tony Donohue, Ibec's head of social and innovation policy, said there has been far too little debate about the role the private sector can play in delivering public services.

He warned Ireland is fourth lowest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in terms of using external providers to deliver public services despite private firms already handling IT projects, animal traceability and the road safety cameras.

"Outsourcing need not lead to job losses and is not akin to privatisation," he said. "Public sector control can be maintained and service levels improved. There is considerable expertise in Ireland for delivering external services and there is a need for much more direct engagement with the public sector to explore the possibilities. An informed decision can then be taken as to how best to proceed. The net benefit will be more efficient and effective services, ultimately benefiting the taxpayer."

The SFA stressed sensible policy decisions and strong political leadership is needed for a strong future.

Director Avine McNally said Irish businesses and consumers have taken a harsh spoonful of fiscal medicine with increases in excise duties and taxes. "Coupled with the fragile recovery in the global economy, especially the UK and the eurozone, these factors are all impacting on the Irish economic recovery," she said. "The only way to solve the fiscal and unemployment crisis is through generating economic activity. It is essential that Government place small businesses at the heart of economic policy."

Isme called on the Government to stimulate the economy and boost business confidence by cutting business costs, supporting job creation, and tackling the banking crisis. While its spring survey highlighted that business indicators are improving, it also showed a marked decline both in actual and expected exports.

Chief executive Mark Fielding said retailers have borne the brunt of weak consumer confidence since the start of the recession. "We expect this to remain problematic in 2013," he said. "The Government must focus on maintaining employment in the weakest sectors of the economy and supporting them with new enterprise initiatives."

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