Our Frontbench Spokesperson on Small Business initiated a debate on a National Loan Guarantee Scheme for Enterprise in the Dail this week. A scheme such as this is in operation in many countries around the world. Below is my contribution along with the wording of the motion.
This motion is crystal clear. For once, I appeal to the Minister to accept a positive Fine Gael suggestion. I compliment Deputy Perry on tabling this motion on behalf of Fine Gael.
Small enterprises are one of our few potential engines of growth and can play a key role in solving the economic crisis. The required capital increases due to Basel II rules have undoubtedly resulted in capital hoarding by the banks. Our banks are almost exclusively focused on rebuilding their balance sheets. Due to the Government’s softly softly approach, they continue to hoover up whatever capital is available. Our dysfunctional system was born when even the most basic element of moral hazard was thrown out the window of Government Buildings in September 2008.
The terms of this motion propose that the guarantee scheme would place an emphasis on start-up and export-oriented companies. The debacle of two weeks ago in respect of county enterprise boards underlines the need for a loan guarantee scheme. The fact that those bodies were allowed to run out of money by September speaks volumes. That there is no seed capital for them makes this motion even more important.
For the next six weeks, Clare County Enterprise Board will run a start your own business campaign involving 14 participants. This is the first of four such programmes over the winter. Overall, 50 potential business ideas will be intensively teased out over the winter. Their viability or lack thereof will be established by the end of their respective courses, but people who are in a position and want to pursue their ideas will face difficulties next spring when they seek funding to move to the next stage. Were there a loan guarantee scheme in place, potential entrepreneurs would feel pursuing their ideas worthwhile. This is what the terms of the motion are about, namely, an expression of absolute confidence in our small business sector.
The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have become adept at stating that we are all in this together. They don of the green jersey of Ireland when they are in trouble and when they want us all to join together. I ask the Government, especially the Minister, Deputy O’Keeffe, to put on the green jersey on behalf of the small business community of this country.
That Dáil Éireann:
– recognises that up to 80,000 small firms employ approximately 800,000 people in every city, town, village and region in the country;
– recognises that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are heavily involved in emerging sectors in areas such as green energy, bio-technology, tourism, healthcare, agri-food and creative industries;
– notes with concern that 1,132 businesses have been declared insolvent since the start of the year;
– notes that the rate of business insolvency is higher so far in 2010 than in the same period in 2009 and 2008 despite assurances of the economy turning a corner;
– notes with concern that small businesses are still having difficultly accessing credit through financial institutions for a variety of reasons;
– recognises that the Government strategy of NAMA and bank recapitalisation has not produced a ‘wall of cash’ in credit for small business promised by the Minister for Finance;
– acknowledges broken Government promises to introduce a loan guarantee scheme for small and medium sized businesses;
– recognises that similar schemes in countries like Chile and Taiwan have resulted in increased lending to SMEs and delivered business growth and increased trade at little or no cost to the taxpayer; and
– recognises that in the aftermath of a banking crisis, a temporary loan guarantee scheme can support the goal of re-establishing strong and long lasting links between SMEs and banks and to encourage entrepreneurship;
calls on Government to introduce a loan guarantee scheme for small and medium sized businesses based on the following operational principles:
– risk-sharing between financial institutions and the State;
– auctioning of loan guarantee contracts to financial institutions;
– credit assessment carried out by the banks and the Credit Review Office;
– an emphasis on start-ups and export-oriented companies; and
– exclusion of financial institutions that approve high rates of non-performing loans.”