Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you for your attendance here this morning.
Today we are publishing the third Quarterly Progress Report on our Action Plan for Jobs 2012.
As you’re aware it has been a significant few days on the jobs front following the major announcements by the Kerry Group and Paddy Power last week.
Only yesterday Minister Bruton announced details of a further 122 jobs in tech companies based in Letterkenny, Dublin and Limerick.
This is in the context of the situation where this Government inherited a jobs market in freefall with over 250,000 private sector jobs lost in the three years before we took office.
Since assuming office we have been delivering on our plan build a new economy. Part of this is supporting a transition from the old, failed economy based on property, banking and debt to a new, sustainable economy based on enterprise, exports and innovation.
The latest quarterly report on employment statistics from the CSO shows we are making some progress with 17,000 additional private sector jobs created since March 2011.
The Action Plan for Jobs is a central tool to construct this new economy.
It builds on the Jobs Initiative, the pro-enterprise measures introduced in Budget 2012, the ongoing work to restructure the banks and restore the public finances, and the delivery of Pathways to Work, our comprehensive labour activation programme.
On Monday, I launched the new Intreo service with Minister Burton. This integrated service transforms the way we support job seekers back into jobs.
These are long overdue reforms that were outlined in our Programme for Government.
The Government is steadfast in its commitment to deliver on the Action Plan for Jobs and its aims to have 100,000 more people in work by 2016 and 2 million people in work by 2020.
Substantial progress has been made in implementation of the Action Plan. All 160 measures due in the first half of this year have now been completed.
In Q3, Departments and Agencies were to deliver 67 measures. According to the Report, 58 of those 67 measures due in Q3 have been delivered on schedule, giving a completion rate of 87%.
Some of the highlights achieved in Q3 include:
Launching of the Microfinance Fund;
Decisions to establish new Technology Centres in Cloud Computing, Learning Technologies and Financial Services; and,
Enacting legislation to reform and streamline wage setting processes.
Clearly, we are not satisfied 9 measures have not been delivered on time. 5 of these relate to legislation. There are heavy demands on the resources available for legislation drafting but it is something we need to examine further to ensure there are no unnecessary delays in delivering new reforms and new laws.
From the outset, we have been very clear that this Plan is about taking incremental and necessary action right across Government to support enterprises to grow and to create and retain jobs; quarter by quarter, reform by reform.
In this context, I am encouraged by the impacts which are evident and linked to the implementation of measures in Quarters 1 and 2 under the Plan, including:
44 multinational project announcements with associated jobs for Dublin, Limerick, Mayo, Sligo, Cork, Louth and Kildare
53 new High Potential Start-Up companies that together plan to create over 900 new jobs by the end of 2014 are being supported by Enterprise Ireland.
More than 1,300 participants on the JobBridge programme have progressed directly into employment on completion of their internship – this 37% progression rate compares positively with European experiences in this area.
These are just some of the impacts being seen from the steps taken under the Action Plan, but we are acutely aware that much remains to be done.
In this context, I am delighted that the Credit Guarantee Scheme is being launched here this morning. I understand that Minister Bruton will be signing the contract with the operator following this event.
The Government understands that the small business sector will be essential to our mission of getting Ireland working again.
They provide jobs in every townland and village in the country. And they have suffered a lot during the economic shock that has hit this country.
Access to working credit is a problem.
Many small businesses have been hit hard by the decline in the supply of lending. This problem is not unique to Irish SMEs, but is rather a worldwide phenomenon, and it is not insurmountable. Many EU and OECD Member States have intervened with some form of a loan guarantee scheme.
The Credit Guarantee Scheme will facilitate lending to viable SMEs that might otherwise be declined. Alongside the recently launched Microfinance Scheme, the work through the Credit Review Office and directly with the Banks, the Scheme is part of the suite of measures the Government is undertaking to improve access to finance for enterprises.
The continuing scale of the challenge is obvious. We have stabilised the economy, private sector jobs are growing again, but there is still some distance to go yet.
For our part Government will continue to implement the type of reforms and changes required to help Irish businesses and to attract new FDI.
With continued and sustained implementation of our action plans we will succeed in making Ireland the best small country in the world for business by 2016.