As you know in the past few weeks the Tanaiste and I have appointed a new team to bring a new energy and vision to the Government’s priorities for the remainder of its term.
As part of this process we set out our priorities where we recommitted that jobs remain the top priority for Government.
This country suffered an enormous unemployment shock caused by the catastrophic policies of the previous Government.
Emerging signs of economic recovery today will have to be matched by policies to drive a jobs recovery.
Only by getting Ireland working again we will see economic recovery felt nationwide, in every city, town and village.
Creating new jobs is the great enabler for better living standards and a better future for working families.
The Action Plan for Jobs is our key tool to achieve this.
It is has been remarkably successful in driving action across Government to create the conditions for strong jobs growth.
I can assure everyone that in the recent weeks and months the Government has remained very focused on delivering changes to support job creation.
In fact we have delivered a number of notable achievements, through the Action Plan for Jobs, during quarter two.
This quarter, we have delivered 123 specific measures out of 144 that were scheduled for delivery – that’s 85% of the measures over the line on time. The rest will be prioritised for delivery in the next quarter.
In cumulative terms, over the first six months, we have delivered 91% of the measures that were committed to.
Some examples of actions from this Quarter that we have been delivered include:
· Completion of the roll-out of the Local Enterprise Office network and scaling-up of the range of services available to small businesses from these offices;
· Recruitment of additional resources within IDA to win even greater levels of investment for Ireland;
· Advancing a range of initiatives to improve access to finance for small business including, for example, beginning the legislative process for the new Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland which we announced last quarter which will provide an additional €500 million in SME funding in the short term.
· The national roll-out of the Trading Online Voucher scheme following the completion of a successful pilot in Dublin – this is an extremely important initiative for Ireland’s small businesses which Minister White will now see through to completion;
· Similarly, we are establishing a National Health Innovation Hub following on from a successful demonstrator project in Cork – the aim here is to develop new products and services for the global healthcare sector while at the same time benefiting patients in Ireland who can access new products and services being delivered. Minister Bruton is a passionate advocate of this project and will tell you more about it;
· Minister Howlin has this week announced a number of initiatives in the area of Open Data and these will form an important part of our disruptive reform in the area of data analytics;
We are also taking action to return the construction industry back to sustainable levels with our new Strategy.
A Ministerial meeting on this subject, chaired by me, took place last night and Ministers’ Kelly, Coffey and Noonan have a large body of work ahead of them to address the many problems facing the sector.
Increasing supply of high quality homes is urgent to deliver more housing solutions for working families.
Minister of State Coffey will be bringing forward a lot of new legislation and a policy statement on planning in the coming months to help improve the regulatory and quality framework for construction.
As a result of all this work we have seen the positive trends continue for job creation and the reduction in unemployment.
The unemployment rate now stands at 11.6%, the lowest it has been since early 2009.
The live register has fallen every month for 24 consecutive months, two years in a row.
But it is not enough.
We have 258,000 people unemployed, 156,000 of whom have been unemployed for over one year. We need to use every opportunity to get these people back to work.
In the recent Statement of Government Priorities we have renewed our commitment to reducing the unemployment rate to below 10% by 2016.
To support 2.1 million jobs in the economy by 2020, replacing all of the jobs lost during the economic crisis.
The Action Plan for Jobs process has worked very well in the past three years and will continue to work as long as we maintain the high level of commitment and enthusiasm to see it fully implemented.
We will continue to use the Action Plan for Jobs model to set out the detailed measures required quarter by quarter to get Ireland working.
I have asked Minister Bruton to begin preparations for the 2015 Action plan, working closely with all other Ministers across Government.
Our work will continue over the summer months. We have another 103 measures to deliver by the end of September and we will be back to you shortly after that to report on the implementation of these measures.