SMEs

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS | AGENDA - Peter Hamil­ton

For small and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs), Bud­get 2019 con­tained some treats, al­though they’re be­ing viewed with cau­tion.

In­cluded are a fu­ture growth loan scheme for SMEs and the agri-food sec­tor, as well as more gen­er­ous terms for the unloved key em­ployee en­gage­ment pro­gramme (Keep).

“The devil is in the de­tail,” said Sven Spollen-Behrens, the di­rec­tor of the Small Firms As­so­ci­a­tion. The pre­vi­ous Brexit loan scheme, for ex­am­ple, didn’t en­cour­age him, with rel­a­tively low take-up.

“Our busi­nesses are scream­ing for work­ing cap­i­tal. It isn’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to be Brexit-re­lated so this could be good, but we’ll have to wait and see,” said Neil McDonnell, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Ir­ish Small and Medium En­ter­prises As­so­ci­a­tion.

Last year’s bud­get looked promis­ing but the Fi­nance Bill damp­ened ex­pec­ta­tions some­what, SME busi­ness lead­ers say. And that’s one of the rea­sons there’s ini­tial scep­ti­cism sur­round­ing Keep.

McDonnell says there’s yet more con­fu­sion af­ter the Min­is­ter’s speech on Tues­day. “He used the ex­pres­sion that the limit has been lifted to life­time. Does that mean there’s a life­time max­i­mum you can gain un­der this scheme?”

More egre­gious was the small in­crease in the earned in­come credit of €200 when the gap be­tween self-em­ployed work­ers and PAYE work­ers was €500.

“That was such a petty, nasty lit­tle mea­sure,” McDonnell said. “There’s no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for that sort of dis­crim­i­na­tion. If we were talk­ing about peo­ple in the pub­lic sec­tor, there’d be marches on Kil­dare Street.”

Spollen-Behrens noted that the full cost of equal­is­ing the credit would have been just €37 mil­lion. “If you com­pare [the strat­egy] for for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment and multi­na­tion­als, we still don’t have a clear co­her­ent strat­egy for [SMEs].”

That was such a petty, nasty lit­tle mea­sure. There’s no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for that sort of dis­crim­i­na­tion. If we were talk­ing about peo­ple in the pub­lic sec­tor, there’d be marches on Kil­dare Street

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