Contribution to the Finance Bill – Dail Eireann – 16th February 2012

February 16th, 2012 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Finance Bill 2012. In welcoming the Bill, I pay tribute to the Minister, Deputy Noonan. Since his appointment as Minister for Finance, he has brought confidence to the country. He has worked hard to stabilise the public finances and, especially, the banking system.

The budget he introduced last December was hard but fair. The Minister has echoed that since the budget. There are positive signs that suggest the Irish economy is recovering. When the Minister introduced this Bill in the House on Tuesday evening, he said “we are on track to bring the deficit below 3% of gross domestic product, GDP, by 2015, the banking system has been recapitalised and the economy returned to growth last year”. Those signs are very encouraging. When the NTMA sold €3.5 billion of bonds recently, it was the first time private investors bought Government bonds since September 2010. This encouraging development, which increases confidence, was welcomed by the European Commission.

Events in Europe and on the international stage will always present a challenge for the Irish economy. Last Monday, Moody’s adjusted its ratings for nine European countries. It is encouraging that Ireland’s rate was not adjusted. We are going in the right direction. When one considers the approach Moody’s has taken to countries like the UK, Austria, France, Spain and Italy, it is clear the decision not to change Ireland’s rating shows the Government has brought confidence back to the economy. It needs to be emphasised that events in Greece last week are totally different from the Irish situation. The Greek Parliament voted in favour of a second bailout, this time worth €130 billion. As a result, it will have to make €3.1 billion in cuts. This is a huge challenge for the Greek Government. I hope it will be able to restore confidence. Equally, I hope the 26 other member states will agree to the bailout. The situation in this country is not the same as that in Greece. We do not have riots, disruption and fires etc.

Although the unemployment rate of 13.5% in this country is high, I believe the measures taken by the Government, including last year’s jobs initiative and the recent jobs action plan, when taken in conjunction with the Bill before the House, show that job creation is a top priority for the Government. As I travel around County Clare, it is clear to me that the role of small and medium sized enterprises is extremely important. They play an important role in the local economy and throughout the country. Clearly, small businesses that provide four, five or six jobs represent the cornerstone of the economy. Although the recent unveiling of the action plan was not a jobs announcement, it shows the Government is working with businesses in a different way. We are changing the way we support businesses. This ambitious plan will bring confidence and create a positive vision.
I accept that money is scarce. We have to do much more with less money. It is extremely important that we help small and medium sized enterprises by ensuring they can access credit. We are pursuing the whole idea of a one stop shop. There needs to be less red tape. New initiatives are being undertaken to help the Irish diaspora. We are offering a €4,000 finder’s fee to those who attract business to this country. The development capital fund of €150 million will help larger businesses.

All of that is important as we try to restore this country’s viability, competitiveness and employment levels. There is much more to be done. The Taoiseach has travelled to the United States today to encourage more US investment in this country. It is important to note that 13,000 jobs were created by IDA Ireland last year.

I am pleased to have had an opportunity to speak. I welcome the Finance Bill 2012. I am sorry I did not have more time, as I could have said much more. It is extremely important that there is some positive news.