I propose to take Questions Nos. 163, 165, 168 and 169 together.
The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention.
I engage with representatives from across the enterprise base in a range of ways and on an on-going basis. In addition, my officials meet regularly with representatives from the enterprise development agencies, such as Enterprise Ireland, who as a matter of course have very close engagement with all sectors, including manufacturing companies on an individual and group basis.
Throughout 2009 and 2010, my Department, through Enterprise Ireland, facilitated job retention through the Employment Subsidy Scheme and supported vulnerable companies through the particularly challenging economic circumstances with the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund.
The National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, published on 24 November 2010, is a strategy for economic recovery with the aim of restoring stability to the public finances, improving Ireland’s cost competitiveness, stimulating enterprise growth and job creation. There are two pillars to the strategy for competitiveness, growth and employment a) remove potential structural impediments to competitiveness, growth and employment creation and b) pursue appropriate sectoral policies to encourage export growth and recovery of domestic demand.
The Plan sets out a range of specific actions and supports designed to:
Spur further improvements in competitiveness across all sectors of the economy including measures to cut input costs to business; in energy, waste, transport, professional fees, property and labour.
Foster export growth and a recovery of domestic demand.
Provide investment of €2.2 billion in capital over the four years of the Plan for the Enterprise Agencies, which will enable them to create jobs across the economy, through:
supporting indigenous firms to increase exports,
winning new foreign investment, and
targeting and supporting Research, Development and innovation in companies, to boost productivity, exports, growth and jobs.
Key among the measures outlined in the Recovery Plan are proposals to remove barriers to employment, specifically a reduction in the minimum wage, reform of the social welfare system to incentivise work and eliminate unemployment traps as well as the re-invigoration of existing activation policies to ensure that the unemployed can make a swift return to work. These measures together with other actions already underway to restore fiscal stability, enhance access to credit, prioritise capital investment and to improve international competitiveness will impact positively across all sectors of the economy.
The State Development agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, and the County and City Enterprise Boards are continuing to drive and promote enterprise development, and consequently employment creation in our economy.
There are a wide range of other initiatives and actions already underway to assist economic recovery. Forfás recently published a report “Making it Happen — Growing Enterprise for Ireland” which sets out a series of recommendations that can help to improve the competitiveness of the economy and facilitate enterprise growth and job creation. The report includes 40 high level recommendations, supplemented by a number of sector-specific recommendations, aimed at addressing barriers to growth and accelerating potential in thirteen different sectors, such as ICT, health care Life Sciences, International Financial Services, Agri Food, Green Technologies and Education Services.
In September last, the Taoiseach launched the five-year integrated Government plan for trade, tourism and investment, This has set a number of ambitious targets to be achieved by 2015 including the generation of 300,000 jobs between direct and spin off employment. The overall objective of the strategy and its action plan is to marshal and coordinate the resources of the State in a way that best supports firms, of all sizes, in all parts of the country, which are trying to trade and grow their business overseas. The strategy presents a suite of actions for building on existing strengths and driving trade relations in existing as well as new and emerging economies.