Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Kenny’s government has unveiled an ambitious action plan to create 200,000 jobs in eight years. It’s a massive slice off the current 439,600 who are unemployed, but if it succeeds there will be still more people jobless in 2020 than there were when the figure was under 200,000 in 2005.
Employers and trade unions welcomed the plan, but they also emphasized it had some deficiencies.
The government announced on Monday two four-year enterprise cycles, with the creation of 100,000 jobs in each four-year period.
Kenny claimed radical improvements in the way government and business interact would result in a much-needed workforce boost in two swathes by 2020.
What he called the Action Plan on Jobs includes restructuring the country’s enterprise agencies, helping more small businesses win big contracts and improving the performance of indigenous companies.
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Kenny said the initiative has become the third major strand of the government’s economic plan to get Ireland working, after rebuilding the banks’ capacity to lend and cutting the budget deficit.
“Through this action plan we will target different sectors with new supports. We will radically improve the way the government and business interact by cutting both costs and red tape,” Kenny said.
Kenny vowed to personally oversee the implementation of the plan. He maintained his department will work closely with other departments to make absolutely sure the necessary changes are made and that results are achieved and jobs created.
Kenny, clearly reacting to positive encouragement in New York last week by former President Bill Clinton, said Ireland would target key sectors, produce more world class companies and attract new investment that will create more jobs.
“By attracting investment, we can grow our businesses both here at home and for the world market. The more contracts Irish companies win in the global market, the more jobs,” he said.
More than 270 actions were mapped out by the government in 15 departments and 36 state agencies. They include the establishment of a one-stop shop for small businesses by dissolving county and city enterprise boards and creating a central office to work with local authorities.
A €150 million development capital scheme will also aim to fill the funding gap for mid-size, high-growth indigenous companies. A loan guarantee scheme and a €100 million micro-finance loan scheme will also go live shortly.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said with 300,000 jobs having been lost because of a flawed economic model which collapsed in 2008, job creation was the top priority.
“However, there is no big bang solution. It will take a period of hard work by businesses, government and people across the country to rebuild the economy brick by brick, reform by reform, to get back to sustainable, enterprise-led growth where more businesses can start up, expand and create new jobs,” he said.
In an effort to address the difficulties small companies face accessing credit, the state is to guarantee 75% of loans to small and medium businesses, a measure expected to be operational by the second quarter of this year.
A new Micro Finance Fund will supply investment in small companies seeking less than €25,000. The fund will be €10 million every year for 10 years. The European Investment Bank will supply some of the equity.
The plan proposes a finders’ fee of “up to €4,000” for people of Irish extraction abroad who succeed in bringing major job projects to Ireland.
There will also be a facility for the diaspora to contribute to investment in new enterprises, which is modeled on a similar scheme in Israel.
David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said the Action Plan for Jobs was a welcome initiative, but he added that it suffered some “key” deficiencies.
He was pleased to see a desire to create jobs at the heart of government policy, but he feared a commitment to further austerity budgets would see more people out of work and emigration continuing for some time. He was concerned the plan “appeared to contain no proposals to counteract long-term unemployment.”
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Employer lobby Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC), said the plan featured a range of practical measures that would help businesses to create jobs.
But IBEC director general Danny McCoy also warned that the primary cause of unemployment was the lack of consumer confidence and domestic demand in the economy and that the initiative did little to address those problems. “New thinking and greater ambition from both the government and troika will be required in the coming months and years,” he added.
Opposition political party Fianna Fail said the plan displayed a “significant lack of imagination” on the government’s part and was more focused on organizational changes than stimulus measures.
Sinn Fein said the government proposals were mostly a rehash of initiatives already unveiled, and the plan was to implement them within existing, significantly reduced, budgets.
Party spokesperson Peadar Toibin said, “In the build-up to the announcement we were promised much; however on publication we find no new money and no meaningful targets. Job creation and growth is the most important issue facing this state. In almost 12 months since this government took office, nearly half a million people remain unemployed.”
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