During a recent Self-Employed and the SME Sector Motion I made the following points as there is no doubt that the self-employed suffer disproportionately. We know there is disparity in tax treatment and social welfare benefits. It is also skewing the figures on the live register because certain unemployed people are unable to register. I support the point about tax credits (the introduction of an earned income tax credit for the self-employed on a phased basis of equal value to the PAYE tax credit). PAYE workers are very aware of their rights. Most of the companies they work for have salaries sections and human resources sections but small and medium businesses are at a disadvantage here.
So much mitigates against small and medium businesses. I will give one example. A small café in my constituency is being brought to court by Irish Water because it cannot pay a €300 permit application to discharge effluent to the sewer. It is a small business that pays its rates but is in danger of having to lose an employee. A similar business in Northern Ireland would not have to pay by virtue of size and I think this must be looked at.
PRSI is crippling small businesses that are trying to start up. If “employ, employ, employ” is the mantra, there must be leeway on that for businesses that are just starting out.
Another difficulty is the length of time it takes to prepare applications for grants. Some small businesses might have no hope of getting these grants and some help at the beginning or a few pertinent questions might have pointed them in a less time consuming direction.
Procurement has had very negative effects on some businesses, particularly the printing industry. I know of cases where the lowest-priced tender has been accepted but, in the long run, it has not worked out.
During St. Patrick’s week there is much emphasis on foreign direct investment and Ministers, and Ministers of State, going abroad. We need something similar for small and medium enterprises in this country. As foreign direct investment is facilitated and encouraged, we need the same for indigenous industries.