Finance (No. 2) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
Thursday, 7 November 2013
Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Bill. The previous speaker referred to restoring our reputation abroad, which is something we have done in a really good way. As Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, I meet many people in the Houses or on trips abroad who refer to the fact that confidence in the country has been restored and who pay tribute to the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, in that regard.
I acknowledge the work done by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, in the budget. While difficult decisions have had to be taken and while few people have been cushioned from the economic crisis, we are beginning to see tangible results from the measures taken by the Government during the past two years. The economy has stabilised and returned to growth. There will be growth of 0.2% this year and the forecast for next year is for growth of 2%, which some commentators stating that it could be even higher. This will create greater confidence and stability, encourage people to spend more and lead to the creation of much-needed employment. One must commend the work done by the Government, IDA Ireland and the other development agencies in attracting foreign direct investment, FDI. Earlier today I met the new Korean ambassador, who referred to the fact that confidence in Ireland has been restored and spoke about furthering bilateral and trade relationships between our two countries. Retaining our 12.5% rate of corporation tax is critical in terms of sustaining FDI, and people want to invest in this country. We face a major challenge but there are many positives for us, including our English-speaking population, the fact that Ireland provides an access point to 500 million other citizens across the EU and the ease of doing business here.
I would like some of the investment to which I refer to be spread to the regions. At present, 80% of FDI goes to the three big hubs of Cork, Galway and Dublin. I would certainly like the regions to obtain a larger slice of the cake. I commend the new business manager of IDA Ireland, Mr. Conor Agnew, who is focusing on promoting FDI in Clare, Limerick and north Tipperary. I know Mr. Agnew will prioritise investment in these locations and the surrounding region.
The most important aspect of the budget for me, as a Deputy from County Clare, was the reduction in the air travel tax to zero and the retention of the 9% VAT rate in the tourism sector. Ryanair has already done some good work in launching eight new routes at Shannon Airport, a decision that will create between 200 and 300 new jobs and provide a major boost for tourism interests in the region, specifically bed and breakfast providers, car hire companies and hotels.
The airport became an independent entity only a year ago and may return a small profit this year, which is a tribute to its employees who have worked hard over the past 12 months. Winning the all-Ireland hurling final also provided a great boost to County Clare.
I note the Minister of State with responsibility for small business, Deputy John Perry, is present. I commend the work he has done in this area. Small businesses are the lifeblood of many communities. While a small business may only provide two or three jobs, these jobs underpin local economies. Next year, the small and medium enterprise sector is expected to create a further 4,500 jobs. As Deputy Penrose pointed out, cashflow is extremely important for small companies.
Many self-employed people have expressed concerns about the impact of bringing forward from September to June the date on which self-assessment tax returns must be filed. This will have an impact on small and medium sized enterprises and should be considered by the Minister. Given that the budget has moved from December to October, it has been suggested that the Department of Finance will require these tax returns to be filed earlier for forecasting purposes in the context of Exchequer returns. Farmers, for example, do not receive single farm payments until October, while businesses in the tourism industry receive most of their income in the summer and are not in a position to file returns until September. I ask the Minister to bear that point in mind.
I would like to have discussed the one parent credit and its availability to non-primary carers but my time has elapsed. This was a good budget. I hope the Minister will accept many of the proposals made in this debate and enact the Bill as quickly as possible.