I have been engaging with the Minister of Finance and Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the 2021 budgetary priorities.
I will be focusing in particular on building on the measures in the July Stimulus Package. I want to help small businesses in particular to navigate the months ahead, which will be challenging, and help get as many people as possible back to work. The July Stimulus includes enhanced direct grants to businesses and improved access to low cost loans, worth more than €5 billion, with an additional €2 billion in loan guarantees. It is bigger in scale than most budgets and will be deployed at speed. It is designed to help businesses to open, to help those that are already open to stay open, to get staff back to work and for those who cannot go back to their old jobs, there are new opportunities.
We’ve already pumped billions of euro into the economy, through wage subsidies, the PUP, cash for businesses, low cost loans and commercial rates waivers. We know these actions have made a difference. Helping to repair the damage wrought on the economy – and keeping the virus contained – is vital for the wellbeing of our people. As set out in the July Stimulus we will do this by:
- supporting viable businesses and jobs, including new hires, through the extended wage subsidy scheme, which run until the end of March 2021, will be open to firms that do not currently participate and open to workers like seasonal workers who weren’t previously included;
- giving companies extra assistance to reopen and stay open through an enhanced Restart grant available to more firms and more generous;
- providing more and cheaper loan finance;
- funding to help businesses and get ready for Brexit;
- exploiting opportunities in areas like Life Sciences and investing in decarbonisation and digitalisation;
- the six month reduction in the VAT, going down from 23% to 21%;
- more funding for the IDA to promote Ireland as a place for foreign direct investment.
It is likely that COVID 19 and Brexit will continue to affect the Irish economy over the next 12 to 18 months and we will need to continue to be aware of the challenges that these pose for enterprise.
Whilst these will be the most immediate concerns to our enterprises, we must continue to respond in a way that also addresses the medium and long-term needs of enterprise.