I note the findings of the Central Bank vulnerability analysis of Irish SME credit exposures, in particular, the improvement in the condition of the aggregate performing SME portfolio overall. I also note that high vulnerability exposures are not concentrated in any particular region or regions, that borrowers in the Accommodation and Food and Wholesale and Retail sectors account for over half of high vulnerability balances and that term loans and overdraft facilities make up over ninety per cent of high vulnerability balances.
My Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to assist businesses at all stages of development and across all sectors. The suite of finance supports have been developed to address market failures including cost of finance, need for collateral, availability of loans for microenterprises, and availability of loans with terms of longer than 7 years.
These supports include schemes such as the Brexit Loan Scheme, the Future Growth Loan Scheme, the Credit Guarantee Scheme and the provision of loans through Microfinance Ireland, all designed to ensure that SMEs have access to affordable and appropriate finance when required. My Department also supports alternative sources of finance for SMEs such as through the Seed and Venture Capital Scheme, the fifth programme of which (2019-2024) launched late last year.
An important support is the Credit Review Office, which was established to help all Small Medium Enterprises or Farm borrowers who have had an application for credit of up to €3m declined or reduced, and who feel that they have a viable business proposition. The Office also looks at cases where borrowers feel that the terms and conditions of their existing loan, or a new loan offer, are unfairly onerous or have been unreasonably changed to their detriment.
Most recently my Department has produced an Overview of Government Supports for Indigenous Business. This sets out in detail the Government supports available to develop and build capacity in indigenous enterprises across Ireland, delivered through a network of bodies with a wide reach into urban and rural localities. In addition to supports for start-ups and developing businesses, the report sets out supports that incentivise research, development and innovation, supports for regional businesses and supports that address informational, technical and skills gaps in SME businesses. This report is available at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Overview-of-Government-Supports-for-Indigenous-Business.html
I recognise that Brexit is a significant issue for all firms and to this end, the Overview of Government Supports for Indigenous Business also highlights the networks, structures and supports that have been put in place for indigenous local businesses in identifying key risk areas and in facilitating the practical actions to be taken in response to the UK's exit from the EU.
Regarding specifically the issues surrounding Brexit, the Quick Brexit Guide for Business is also available on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/EU-Internal-Market/Brexit/Getting-Brexit-Ready/ seeks to answer many of the questions that Irish businesses may have when assessing their exposure to Brexit and determining the best course of action to mitigate their likely Brexit-related difficulties. It provides information on the practical steps you can take to deal with issues including: Customs, tariffs and duties, currency, imports, certification, working capital, and financing.
My Department has also published a number of other information guides to raise awareness of supports and finance related issues among SMEs. These are available on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Overview-of-Government-Supports-for-Indigenous-Business.html and include a guide on ‘Government working with finance providers to support SME financing’ which sets out the types of equity and debt financing supports and resources available to business at all stages of the business cycle. The ‘Currency Risk Management for Irish SMEs’ guide seeks to answer questions that SMEs may have when assessing and managing their exposure to foreign currency risk and features a directory of support services and providers that are available in the market.