Thursday, 19 September 2013
Deputy Tom Barry: I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill. It is the first time we have had to sit down and discuss the sale of State assets. For many people this brings trepidation, but that is only natural. Any person in business will say selling an asset for long-term strategic gain is something that always happens. Our gain will be creating jobs which we must keep doing. We are doing it now.
I will bring Members back in time to when the Government came into office. Our first initiative was the jobs initiative, of which one of the larger points was the 9% VAT rate to stimulate tourism. It has worked very well. I am a great believer in planning and this initiative was brought forward early. People criticise this, but they always criticise things. Some would criticise the sun rising in the morning. The Gathering has happened. Our tourism numbers should not have dropped in the first place, but they are up again. All of this was planned; it was not accidental, and these initiatives cost money. JobBridge has been a very good success, although people criticise it and there have been issues with some employers. I have availed of it in my business and the quality of people coming through is excellent. With JobsPlus which came through last July a person who has been unemployed for three months can move to JobBridge and receive training. This is a great time for small businesses such as my own to build a loyal workforce that will see us through many tough and good times. A person who has been unemployed for three months can move to JobBridge with a sincere and decent company. He or she can move from that position to JobsPlus. A person participating in JobBridge receives an extra €50 per week with his or her unemployment assistance payment. As an employer, I would have no problem adding another €50 per week because the programme is of huge value to us. JobsPlus offers financial assistance to companies of up to €7,500 for a person who has been unemployed for a year. That means that a person can be unemployed for three months, join JobBridge and then JobsPlus. One can see a pattern of people returning to work, which is very important.
These programmes all need to be funded; nothing comes for free. That is why I am spending some time on it because these programmes are forgotten. For small businesses like my own, it gives one an extra person who goes out to look for more work and jobs are being created. I have done it. There is quiet confidence. I am not ignoring the issues, but there is no point in living with one’s glass half empty. The figures show that there is job creation. Anyone can see this, although there are difficult sectors. I am in the agriculture sector which was described only a few years ago as a sunset industry – God help us. How times have changed.
Retention of a strategic distribution network is incredibly important, but selling the energy business is not critical.