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Economic Growth Initiatives (Continued)

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 2

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Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Among the practical examples which would help Ireland is first of all the commitment to complete the single market. It is approximately 80% complete and for the remaining 20% the financial services sector particularly is inhibited by different rules and regulations in different member states. The fact that Ireland in this Presidency cleared 11 finance folios, most of them in the financial services area, frees up the possibility of the Internal Market working better in financial services. We have a very strong financial services industry in Ireland not only in Dublin, but now moving into other parts of the country too. That is one specific measure that will help.

A decision approximately a year ago in which €10 billion extra in capital was put into the European Investment Bank, EIB, will help too because that €10 billion can leverage approximately €180 billion and the EIB is gearing up to lend far more extensively than it did in the past. We hope to get our share of that. Already the commitments to Ireland for 2013 are approximately twice what we got in 2012. It is concentrating specifically on lending to SMEs and co-financing PPPs, which will match what we talked about previously. In the multi-financial budget there are dedicated funds for youth unemployment and there is a commitment that if a young person is out of work for four months, he or she gets training or education. That is a very advanced scheme and I hope it can be applied quickly in Ireland.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath I thank the Minister for his reply. There is a job of work to be done in marketing the potential role of the European Investment Bank in Ireland, particularly with SMEs. In my experience, SMEs' level of awareness of the EIB is quite weak. When I come across them and point out the various initiatives and sources of funding available, many of them are not aware of them, despite the efforts of various business representative bodies. If the potential of the EIB is now being leveraged in Ireland at a time when the banks are under continued financial stress in respect of their own lending capacity, we need increasingly to look to sources such as the EIB. Will the Government consider building up the level of awareness and the marketing of those potential sources?

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty There has been much talk and one would be forgiven for thinking that Europe is going to come to our rescue with a huge stimulus package. It is being presented that way. The Minister mentioned the MFF, the budget agreed in Europe last week, and while the figures for the billions that will be invested over that seven year period are great, if one peels off the layers one finds that the budget is reduced. It is an austerity budget. It is a budget that has been cut. If one looks more closely, one sees a 25% cut in the research and innovation fund, an 11% cut to rural development programmes, a 14% cut in health and consumer protection funding and a 9% cut in the Cohesion Fund. Germany is honest. It does not want to stimulate Europe. We need to be honest as well because many myths are being peddled. The budget the Minister said is part of a stimulus is actually a reduction in terms of the money that will be available with inflation added. Some individual measures are to be welcomed no doubt, but an austerity budget was signed off last week.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan On Deputy Michael McGrath's point, the European Investment Bank is engaged in quite a lot of activity, for example, a bundle of schools is being completed, co-financed with the EIB. European Investment Bank money is also funding the separation of traffic at Newlands Cross and the continuation of the road to Wexford. It is assessing the project for the health centres at the moment. That will also be co-financed. In addition, both AIB and Bank of Ireland have received EIB funds for re-lending purposes to SMEs, approximately €200 million or €250 million in respect of each bank. It is beginning to become very significant.

On the issues raised by Deputy Pearse Doherty, we will get assistance from Europe but we will have to do most of the heavy lifting ourselves. Our future is in our own hands. I do not believe in stimulus packages in Germany along the lines of investing in infrastructure. What we really want is for it to loosen its budgetary targets a little and the German workers at this stage, like those elsewhere, would appreciate a pay increase.


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