The SFA Annual Lunch was held today (18 November) in the Mansion House, Dublin. Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin TD, was in attendance as the guest of honour.
Addressing over 500 small businesses at the lunch, SFA Chairman, AJ Noonan spoke of the state of the current business climate: “Serious threats abound for small businesses. We have seen a stark shift in the outlook of these firms over the past six months. In May, 66% of small businesses thought the business environment was improving; this has dropped to 50%. The number that feels it is disimproving has jumped from 3% to 18%.”
Mr Noonan also commented on Brexit in his speech: “Brexit is one factor in this shift. The conversation to date has largely been about the political fallout from Brexit. We must turn the Brexit conversation away from politics to business. Our businesses, our jobs, our futures. 41% of our members report that Brexit has already had a negative impact on their business, rising to 68% expecting a negative impact in the next 6 months.
“We need immediate Government intervention,” Mr Noonan said. “We need Government to become obsessive about our cost-competitiveness and tax-competitiveness vis-à-vis the UK.”
On pay claims, the SFA Chairman commented, “In our quarterly sentiment survey conducted just this week, managing wage expectations has emerged as the most important issue facing small businesses. In an economy that is now deflationary, in which businesses are finding it impossible to get price increases, this is extraordinary, and is being fuelled by unrealistic demands in the trade union movement, both public and private sector.
“The Government has already committed to effectively a 2.5% pay increase per public sector worker with €150mn in increments and €317mn under existing commitments under Lansdowne Road. In contrast, just 60% of our members are able to give pay increases this year, with the average being 2%.”
Mr Noonan also drew attention to the increasing demands on the public purse. He insisted that the “quality and efficiency of public services” be part of the debate.
Mr Noonan concluded by critiquing the current taxation system: “Our tax system is not working for owner-managers, our employees and our future prospects. Some elements in our parliament appear to be obsessed about the redistribution of wealth by taking more from those in work. The self-employed face an even more punitive regime with discrimination in terms of the level of income tax credit, the entry point to PRSI and a 3% USC surcharge.”
The SFA is the trusted partner of over 8,500 small businesses in Ireland. Its Annual Lunch 2016 was sponsored by Bank of Ireland.
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