Our 2019 European/Local Elections Manifestos – An Economic and Business Policy Perspective

May 17, 2019

Shane Conneely, Senior Policy & Research Executive at Chambers Ireland, highlights the business critical policies in our election manifestos.

May 24 sees voters in Ireland decide on who represents them at both the Local and the European level for the next five years.

To help our members focus the attention of their candidates on the issues which affect Ireland’s largest business community, Chambers Ireland has published both a Local Government Manifesto, and also a European Election Manifesto.

We want Europe and Ireland to place their focus on the long-term needs and challenges that face our communities and our businesses, investing in our cities and regions while creating a supportive framework for a more sustainable circular economy. We need Local and European government to support trade in an international environment which has a co-operative approach to taxation.

While our manifestos are broader in their policy suggestions, including measures to long term national goals such as our transition to a low carbon economy and support for sustainable development of our cities and town, this blog picks out the economic development and business friendly policies which we have called for.

To face the challenges of the coming decades we support Project Ireland 2040 and its commitments to invest in the infrastructure which is critical to the future prosperity of our country. One of the lessons of Brexit is our reliance on a continued and deepening political, and economic connection to the rest of Europe; to ensure this end we need to invest significantly in our transport, trading, and energy networks that link us to continental Europe.

Decarbonisation and the Green Economy:

A sustainable low carbon circular economy is our future, to achieve it we need a balanced, supportive and SME friendly approach to the transition including financial supports that incentivise businesses to invest in energy and heating efficiency.

With the urbanisation that Project 2040 requires, and our growing reliance on renewable energy sources, rural areas have an opportunity to shift their productive focus from traditional agri-food sectors towards the new industries which are emerging to satisfy the energy demands of our decarbonising economy. Government must invest in green energy and enterprise training in rural and regional areas to help people supplement their agri-food income.

SME Sectoral Supports:

At the local level, we call on Local Authorities to create smarter, better procurement policies which are SME friendly. Most businesses are small businesses, and in Ireland small businesses employ more people than any other sector, including the state sector. They are the real economy and a business environment which is harsh to SMEs will see businesses wither.

To support business, we call on those Local Authorities which are running large budget surpluses to reducing the rates burden on business. We are also calling on them to invest in local human capital, implement a programme of export training and expanding management training for SMEs. To do this effectively Local Authorities need to create local skills censuses and develop complementary training programmes which address local skill gaps, in conjunction with local business leaders.

Local Enterprise Offices and Training Supports:

To address the challenges of our economy tending towards full employment Local Authorities, and all level of government need to support women who are in the workforce to continue in the workforce whilst also helping those women who have been diverted from the workforce by caring responsibilities to return. To these ends we highlight the need for Local Enterprise Offices to have female focused retraining channels that create local supports for upskilling and retraining women who have left the workplace because of caring responsibilities and which implement female focused enterprise training strategies. To support women’s continued engagement in the workforce we want Local Authorities to support flexible working from outside the major towns and cities by providing serviced office space and hot desks in towns where there is broadband.

Think Small First:

At the European level, we continuously highlight the importance of “Think Small First” principle: As most businesses are small, government at all levels needs to recognise that SMEs are the primary target of regulatory changes that are introduced and must so be prioritised in determining what regulations require.

Brexit Support and Taxation:

We have again called for financial aid for communities and businesses who have been detrimentally impacted by Brexit uncertainty, and may experience even further harm in the event of a No-Deal Brexit on October 31.

On taxation, we have advocated a collaborative global approach when it comes to reforming international taxation, particularly for digital companies. 2020 will see the OECD’s BEPS project enter it’s second phase; one which will likely affect Ireland’s Corporation Income Tax take considerably. We therefore call upon the European Union’s Council to defend the principle of EU unanimity on issues of taxation and to ensure EU competitiveness is central to any changes to taxation policy.

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