Feature Article
Introduction - business priorities and solutions for Cabinet
by Danny McCoy, Ibec CEO

Dear member,

 

In the wake of last month's reshuffle, Ibec took the opportunity to share our latest policy positions, presenting them as briefs to members of the new Cabinet. Last week, Ibec mailed our Business priorities and solutions briefs to the respective Ministers. Here, we send them to you in digital form, preceded by a video introduction by Ibec CEO Danny McCoy.

 

Ibec Agenda 17 July 2017 - Introduction by Danny McCoy

 


NEWS ARTICLES
Brief for An Taoiseach
 
The substance that Ireland has built up over the last quarter of a century means that if Government puts in place the right conditions, Ireland and its businesses will be well-poised for the challenges ahead.

In the global race for investment, it is critical that Ireland does not lag behind its competitors when it comes to infrastructure investment and the cost of doing business. The country is at the very bottom of the EU league table for infrastructure spending, yet Ireland has the EU’s fastest-growing population. There has never been a more cost effective time for Government to borrow money and despite the many uncertainties we face, there is no reason not to be confident about the Irish economy’s potential for growth and continued success.  The substance that Ireland has built up over the last quarter of a century means that if Government puts in place the right conditions, Ireland and its businesses are well poised for the challenges ahead.  The following is a set of priorities from business for An Taoiseach.


Business priorities and solutions

Protect and prepare Ireland for a UK exit from the European Union


Why?

Ireland is uniquely exposed to the risks associated with the UK withdrawal from the EU. For Ireland, the relationship with our closest neighbour, ally, and of course competitor, is set to change fundamentally. This presents numerous and very serious challenges to the economy as a whole, and the individual businesses affected.


How? 
 An Taoiseach should:

  • secure commitments in any EU-UK deal that recognise the unique economic and political challenges that Brexit presents to Ireland; putting in place a range of contingency measures including provisions on travel and labour market rights, while addressing Ireland’s trade exposure and the challenges presented by the land border with Northern Ireland
  • ensure the EU provides a state-aid framework to enable companies to trade successfully through Brexit’s disruption, retain UK market share, and diversify
  • ensure, through work with EU colleagues and the UK, comprehensive transitional arrangements to avoid a precarious ‘cliff edge’ scenario, and allow business time to adapt to a new trading relationship
  • retain Ireland’s cost competitiveness by being vigilant against excessive labour costs increases; and take strategic decisions to improve cost competitiveness in areas such as energy, regulatory and insurance costs
  • ensure a level playing field in relation to Ireland’s business tax offering for indigenous business. This is in the context of a raised possibility of Irish SMEs servicing the UK market from within because of potential trade restrictions post-Brexit, and the more preferable tax treatment of SMEs in the UK
  • collaborate with colleagues in the EU and the UK to ensure  the closest possible EU-UK relationship post-Brexit
  • ensure a smooth and orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU by working with EU colleagues and the UK to promote a fair financial settlement and a comprehensive agreement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU.

Safeguard Ireland’s position in the European Union


Why?

In a challenging global environment, the European Commission has launched several papers (and intends to launch more) on the future of the EU to generate a discussion between members and within member states on the future of the Union. It is critical to our competitiveness that this does not lead to a two tier Europe that disadvantages Ireland.


How? 
 An Taoiseach should:

support improved cooperation and communication between euro and non-euro member states, working towards a strong and resilient single currency that will benefit Europe as a whole, not just the Eurozone countries.

  • continue to engage constructively with EU27 partners post-Brexit on Irish strategic issues
  • promote positive relations between the EU and the United Kingdom post-Brexit
  • secure flexibility in existing EU fiscal rules to allow for infrastructure investment to stimulate growth and competitiveness, through work with Cabinet
  • support and promote pro-enterprise single market policies, particularly in the digital economy area. 

Accelerate the EU and Ireland’s development as leading globally competitive digital economies


Why?

Completing an effective EU digital single market framework and full adoption of digital technologies could be leveraged to add €27 billion to our GDP and have a positive net effect of up to 140,000 jobs by 2020[1]. The appointment of a Minister of State (MoS) in DAT with expanded responsibility for data protection and the EU digital single market (DSM) has been positive. Ireland has made progress, but accelerated digital development through a ‘whole of government’ approach at both national and international level is required in order to complete the DSM framework and respond to challenges[2] such as Brexit and increased global competition for mobile digital talent and investment.


How? 
An Taoiseach should:

  • build on the success of the position of Minister of State for data protection and the DSM, expanding the role into a broader post for Digital Affairs[3] that advises Cabinet and promotes Ireland as a digital economy
  • ensure that the expanded role of the MoS builds on the success of the interdepartmental committee (IDC) established to respond to DSM implementation, by broadening the remit of this IDC to co-ordinate and deliver ‘a whole of government response’ to advancing our digital economy and delivering the DSM
  • ensure that the MoS engages with stakeholders through a new mechanism such as a digital economy board of advisers, working in parallel to the national data forum, to assist the government and IDC in advancing Ireland’s broad digital economy agenda
  • accelerate the development of a DSM that secures trust through smart regulation; ensures the free flow of data; attracts mobile digital talent and investment; promotes the development of skills; and encourages digital entrepreneurship and continued investment in digital infrastructure and innovation[4]
  • ensure any future free trade agreement between the EU and UK will contain a comprehensive chapter covering digital trade and data flows between the EU and the UK, and facilitate the closest possible post-Brexit co-operation
  • continue to invest in Ireland’s data protection and cyber-security frameworks to protect our growing digital economy.



About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 



[1] Boston Consulting Group (2016) Digitizing Ireland – How Ireland can drive and benefit from an accelerated digitized economy in Europe.

[2] Ibec (2016) Can Ireland take a bigger byte?

[3] For example Belgium’s deputy prime minister is also the minister for their digital agenda.

[4]Ibec (2016) Implementing a DSM that works

 

Brief for Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
 
The uncertainty arising from the Brexit process and the weakening of sterling have presented Irish food and drink companies with a massive challenge to retain their positions within the UK food supply chain. Retaining and growing market share for Irish food and drink must be a key Ministerial priority. 

Agri-food is Ireland’s largest indigenous sector, supporting 230,000  jobs with exports reaching €11.15 billion in 2016. The sector’s continuing ambition is reflected in the €19 billion export target contained in Food Wise 2025, the policy strategy document for the sector to 2025. However, Ireland’s food and drink industry faces an extremely challenging trading climate, in both domestic and export markets.

 

The uncertainty arising from the Brexit process and the weakening of sterling has presented Irish food and drink companies with a massive challenge to retain our position within the UK food supply chain. Retaining and growing market share for Irish food and drink is our key priority. Other priorities include market access, climate change, competitiveness and the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

 

With one in eight jobs in the economy linked to agri-food, failure to deliver on our key priorities will be damaging to the wider economy and not just the food and drink industry.

 

 
Business Priorities and Solutions



1. An Ambitious Brexit Response

 

Why?

Ireland’s largest manufacturing sector is facing a set of unprecedented challenges following the UK vote to leave the EU. Over the longer term the entire basis of our trading relationship with our most important export market will be renegotiated. Immediately however, we face a currency shock that is structural rather than cyclical.


How? The Minister should ensure efficient and open markets domestically and internationally, through:

  • an ambitious and balanced agreement between the EU27 and the UK, to include a frictionless north-south border on the island of Ireland
  • clear transitional arrangements to support existing supply chains between the EU27 and the UK
  • minimal regulatory divergence between the two regions
  • exceptional state-aid support for stabilisation, competitiveness and diversification to remedy a serious disturbance in the Irish economy
  • direct support for farmers through CAP market support or other measures to be made available in the event of further sterling depreciation
  • the re-introduction of the Employment Subsidy Scheme and the Enterprise Stabilisation measures, or similar, which were last applied during the financial crisis in 2009-2011
  • €25 million in funding for market diversification and product innovation measures by Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland
  • trade support measures including export trade financing and export credit guarantees to support the continued development of international export markets
  • specific transit arrangements to facilitate the continued use of Britain as a land-bridge to continental Europe
  • increased resourcing of the international market access unit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and rapid implementation of the new resources
  • taking account of the offensive and defensive interests of the agri-food sector in free trade agreements
  • a finance package that includes sustainable financing via funding from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland

 

 
2. Focus on Cost Competitiveness

 

Why?

A competitive food and drink sector is essential to underpin existing jobs, support future growth and help offset challenges such as Brexit.

 

How? The Minister should support and accelerate growth and cost competitiveness by: 

  • improving access to finance funding to support investments in enabling technology, plant renewal and expansion, refinancing, market development and innovation
  • continuing to provide budgetary supports and agri-taxation measures to enhance primary production competitiveness and expansion
  • reducing industrial energy costs to the EU average, and significantly reducing other utility and local authority charges
  • conducting a full impact assessment before any further legislative change impacting on labour costs and tackle the spiralling cost of liability insurance and injury claims
  • addressing the cost impact of new legislation on the agri-food sector through regulatory impact assessments
  • expanding and repositioning tax relief measures for investment in the agri-food sector to incentivise expansion of existing businesses and investments in start-ups.

 

 
3. High Standards for Safety and Reputation

 

Why?

Meeting the needs of consumers and wider society is at the heart of every food business. Our reputation as food producers and exporters is underpinned by our food safety standards. Industry also seeks to continue to engage in a constructive way with government on societal challenges such as obesity.

 

How? The Minister should: 

  • maintain a world class food safety regime
  • ensure supply chain integrity and identification/management of emerging risks and threats
  • ensure support by Government for voluntary industry efforts on health, nutrition and responsible consumption
  • ensure an evidence-based approach to public health policy making including full engagement with industry
  • avoid discriminatory taxes and other measures on food and beverages

 

 
4.      Sustainable Food Production

 

Why?

Irish agri-food is committed to a sustainable food supply chain.

 

How? The Minister should: 

  • support climate change policies that recognise the sustainable grass-based food production system in Ireland
  • support the EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, and champion a fair effort sharing commitment for Ireland
  • ensure the review of the EU ETS does not exclude Irish agri-food installations from carbon leakage provisions.

 

 
5.      Investing in Innovation, Skills and Human capital

 

Why?

Food Wise 2025 identifies a number of priority policy areas that impact across the entire food and drink sector.

 

How? The Minister should: 

  • ensure a strong focus on national research, skills development and apprenticeships in the agri-food sector
  • ensure a taxation environment which encourages increased investment in innovation
  • continue investment in industry-led applied and fundamental research, in particular in Technology Centre initiatives and support increased access to Horizon 2020 funding
  • continue budgetary support for technology transfer and adoption at primary production level
  • streamline and simplify the application processes for access to innovation supports, particularly for SMEs
  • ensure the skills base of the agri-food industry reflects not just the current business demands but the challenges of future growth in existing and new markets
  • increase funding supports for enterprise led training initiatives including Skillnets and industrial apprenticeships
  • continue to build on the Food Marketing Graduate Programme to deliver high quality talent to the industry.

 


About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

Brief for Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment
 
Completing an effective EU Digital Single Market framework and full adoption of digital technologies could be leveraged to add €27 billion to our GDP, and have a positive net effect of up to 140,000 jobs by 2020.

Business priorities and solutions



1. 
Accelerate the EU and Ireland’s development as leading globally competitive digital economies

Why?

Completing an effective EU Digital Single Market (DSM) framework and full adoption of digital technologies could be leveraged to add €27 billion to our GDP and have a positive net effect of up to 140,000 jobs by 2020.


How? The Minister should:

  • accelerate the development of a DSM that secures trust through smart regulation and ensures the free flow of data
  • attract mobile digital talent and investment
  • promote the development of skills
  • encourages digital entrepreneurship
  • continue investment in digital infrastructure and innovation, by continuing to work with other line-departments and like-minded member states.

 

2. Enable continued investment in high quality and secure digital infrastructure that enhances access and connectivity.


Why?

A robust infrastructure is the backbone of our growing digital economy. Policy and regulatory decisions at national EU level can unlock this investment.

How? The Minister should:

  • ensure timely implementation of the National Broadband Plan.
  • facilitate commercial rollout of high speed broadband and improved mobile coverage by removing costs and delays caused by onerous administrative and planning processes
  • implement the actions to improve telecoms service identified by the Government Taskforce on Mobile and Broadband
  • implement the Network Information Security (NIS) Directive in accordance with better regulation principles and continue to invest in Ireland’s cyber-security framework to protect our growing digital economy
  • promote a positive investment environment at national and EU level in the context of the proposed European Electronic Communications Code and DSM
  • promote a consistent single market approach to spectrum policy and management
  • create a supportive regulatory environment for the rollout of 5G, including fibre backhaul
  • develop further measures to stimulate demand for high speed broadband by encouraging ecommerce adoption by SMEs and additional online public services.



3. 
Enable digital entrepreneurship.


Why?

Digital adoption can enable Irish SMEs to enter new markets, increase sales and create jobs. Digital entrepreneurship can be enabled by the right mix of policy, skills and infrastructure. However digital entrepreneurs, particularly SMEs sometimes require support at different stages of their development. SMEs represent 52.1% of Ireland’s GDP and employ 65% of the private sector workforce.

How? The Minister should:

  • continue and expand the Trading Online Voucher scheme, both in funding and scope, which will help with both ecommerce and cyber security.



4. Ensure that vital clean energy infrastructure gets delivered on time.


Why?

The 2015 Energy White Paper sets out a long-term vision to transform Ireland into a prosperous, resilient low carbon economy. The country has challenging targets under EU legislation over the period to 2030 that simply won't be reached through business as usual. We need, in any case, to ensure that Brexit doesn't disrupt energy provision on the island.

How? The Minister should:

  • endeavour to complete the North-South Interconnector by 2020
  • promote electrification of heating and urban transport, as well as CNG / LPG for commercial vehicles
  • ensure that investor certainty is provided for in the redesign of the Single Energy Market
  • ensure strength in the indigenous production of renewable energy sources through investment incentives
  • streamline the planning consent regime and avoid imposing unnecessary planning restrictions, through engagement with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government
  • encourage greater energy efficiency in the built sector through well-targeted retrofit.



5. Ensure that Irish energy remains internationally cost-competitive.


Why?

Ireland’s future economic prosperity will undoubtedly continue to be heavily dependent on attracting FDI. The relative cost of business services, including energy, is a key factor in choice of investment location.

How? The Minister should:

  • support the low carbon transition in such a way that does not drive up the cost of electricity through a spiralling PSO Levy
  • secure tariff-free energy trade with the UK after Brexit
  • base any new investment in interconnection on a robust cost-benefit analysis, regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations
  • secure at EU level maximum flexibility in meeting our 2030 targets
  • include the use of international credits where it makes sense to do so, particularly for the expected 2020 shortfall
  • base any new Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariffs (REFITs) or Renewable Heat Incentive on carefully-designed competitive auctions, achieving maximum cost-effectiveness while allowing for innovation
  • increase support for sustainable energy through Exchequer funding, rather than through PSO supplier obligations.



6. Support Irish industry’s efforts towards a more resource-efficient economy.


Why?

The EU’s proposed Circular Economy package aims to improve economic resilience while also delivering environmental benefits. Businesses will need to adapt products and operations in order to have a lesser impact on the environment. This includes extending the useful life of products; facilitating safe and inexpensive re-use/ recycling through careful design and selection of materials; and a range of policy supports will be needed to address the particular challenges faced by Irish business during this transition.

How? The Minister should:

  • take a cautious approach to ensure optimal balance is achieved between use of chemicals in packaging to extend shelf life and prevent food waste, through insightful interpretation of forthcoming EU waste directives
  • provide adequate funding and support to help start-ups, designers and businesses collaborate as they redesign products and operations to achieve a more circular economy 
  • streamline classification of items as ‘end of waste’ and as a ‘by-product’ to increase reuse  
  • support new initiatives to enhance the EPA’s National Waste Prevention Programme.

 

 

6. Stabilise the funding of public service broadcasting

Why? 

Public service broadcasting plays an essential and unique role in Irish society, which could not function fully without secure funding.

How? The Minister should:

  • adopt effective measures to combat television licence fee evasion, currently costing around €40m per annum in lost revenue. This will support both public service broadcasting and the large number of independent production companies which work closely with it. 


About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

Brief for Minister for Community & Rural Affairs
 
The Irish economy is in recovery mode, but not all parts of the country are benefitting equally. The National Planning Framework has the capacity to address this imbalance and must be underpinned by increased State investment in transport, broadband, water services, health and education infrastructure across all regions. 

Business priorities and solutions



1. Enhance the effectiveness of national and regional planning


Why?

We are living with the legacy of historic policy failure on spatial planning. The now-defunct National Spatial Strategy was well-intentioned but ineffectively implemented. Urban sprawl and traffic congestion adds to the cost of doing business.

Regional economic development has been unbalanced and, in some cases, wasteful of scarce resources. Our housing and transport systems are struggling to cope with society’s growing needs. Given Ireland’s reliance on international trade, our cities need to become more attractive places to live and work.

Regions that have seen population decline, and local economies that are still undergoing fragile recoveries, should be given the necessary guidance to develop through the National Planning Framework (NPF). Through the NPF, they can achieve strong economic growth and create high-skilled employment.

Business investment is driven by certainty, whereas constant change in regional planning or poor adherence to the new NPF, will undermine regional investments.


How? The Minister should:

  • expedite the placement of the NPF on a secure legal footing. It must set out a vision for making our major cities more liveable, for revitalising regional towns, for targeted infrastructure investment in the regions, and achieving a better balance in regional development
  • ensure consistency between regional and local authority planning throughout the implementation of the NPF.

 

2. Investment in regional transport infrastructure


Why?

Underdeveloped transport infrastructure is hindering investment in the regions and driving up costs for businesses and households. Balanced and effective regional development must be a key priority to ensure job creation and future economic growth right across the country.

Although road links between Dublin and the regions have greatly improved in recent years, our regional cities remain poorly connected with each other and some regions remain unconnected to the capital. Better connectivity between cities and regions would boost trade and create growth and job opportunities.


How? The Minister should:

  • expedite the planning and construction of key transport infrastructure projects, prioritising them in line with regional needs as highlighted in Ibec’s submissions on the NPF and the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan
  • support the development of a transport network to support an Atlantic Cities Strategy as an economic counterweight to the Greater Dublin region
  • ensure fewer projects get ‘bogged down’ in lengthy planning and consent procedures.

 


3. 
Digital infrastructure that enhances access and connectivity in all regions


Why?

Many parts of the country do not have access to high speed broadband. This works against job creation, social inclusion and balanced regional development. SMEs without access to high speed broadband cannot compete on a level playing field. 

A robust infrastructure is the backbone of our growing digital economy. Policy and regulatory decisions at national and EU level can unlock this investment.


How? The Minister should:

  • ensure timely implementation of the National Broadband Plan
  • facilitate commercial rollout of high speed broadband and improved mobile coverage by removing costs and delays caused by onerous administrative and planning processes
  • implement the actions to improve telecoms service identified by the Government Taskforce on Mobile and Broadband. 

 

4. Develop Regional Cities and Towns


Why?
Ireland’s Atlantic cities are not performing to their potential. Economic and population growth needs to be reoriented towards Ireland’s regional cities. While Dublin’s population will continue to grow, the majority of total population growth should occur outside of Dublin. This can only be achieved however if other city regions become more attractive places to live and work. Focused investment and long-term planning would allow them to develop economically and attract more businesses and skilled workers to their regions.

The future of Ireland’s town centres should not be left to chance. Revitalising town centres will help to underpin future growth across the regions. Rural towns were more severely affected by the financial crisis than cities and larger urban centres. Successful and sustainable town centre revitalisation, that offers resilience against future hardships, can only be achieved through the active involvement of the public and private sectors.


How? The Minister should:

  • develop a cities strategy for Atlantic Cities that provides Atlantic city-regions with the political and economic vision necessary to achieve complementary growth between Dublin and the other regions
  • support genuine partnerships between local authorities and local businesses to help identify sectors and projects that would best support local growth.

 

5. Reduce congestion in cities


Why?
Ireland’s transport systems are struggling to cope with society’s growing needs. A chronic transport infrastructure deficit has made our cities less ‘liveable’. Congestion imposes costs on business; increasing average journey times by 34% in Cork and 27% in Limerick for example. This is a hindrance to attracting skilled staff and competing for inward investment.

With a growing economy and increases in population, it is inevitable that congestion will get even worse in cities unless there is significant investment in road and public transport infrastructure. The future transport needs of cities should be assessed so that the provision of cost-effective public transport will reflect the needs of individual cities. Investment in suitable public transport infrastructure would in turn reduce the number of cars on the road, help to ease congestion levels and improve air quality in the cities.


How? The Minister should:

  • ensure better integrated public transport within and between our regional cities to encourage modal switch from private cars
  • deliver substantial investment targeted at bottlenecks.

 

ensure faster delivery of planned projects such as the Cork Area Strategic Plan for Transport.

 

6. Overhaul the commercial rates system


Why?

Local business, not central government, is the primary funder of local authorities. This is unsustainable. Exchequer cutbacks have left local businesses to plug the budgetary gap. This undermines local cost competitiveness and capacity for job creation.


How? The Minister should:

  • reform and modernise the commercial rates system in order to rebalance local authority financing and reduce the burden on business
  • improve the effectiveness of the rates collection process. Coordinate with the Department of Justice and Equality to streamline the valuations process and commercial rates system, making them more efficient and transparent.


About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

Brief for Minister for Education and Skills
 
Ireland has fallen behind in the EU league table for education spending, yet has the EU’s fastest-growing population. It is imperative that we prepare young people for life beyond the classroom while ensuring that a sustainable funding model is in place to underpin a world class further and higher education system.

Business priorities and solutions



1.      
Prepare young people for life beyond the classroom


Why?

Education systems today need to prepare young people to deal with more rapid change than ever before, seek jobs that have not yet been created, use technologies that have not yet been invented and solve problems that cannot be foreseen. In order to achieve this, it is important to prepare them for life beyond the classroom.

How? The Minister should:

  • implement reform of both Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate curriculums in order to move away from an undue emphasis on rote learning, towards a more holistic education experience
  • promote stronger entrepreneurial skills among young people by embedding key aspects such as critical thinking, intelligent risk-taking and collaboration across the curriculum from primary to higher education
  • ensure that the recommendations of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education Group are fully implemented
  • reform career guidance services by providing schools with the resources to contract in specialist providers
  • publish the Modern Languages Strategy and establish a Languages Advisory Board to modernise and integrate language teaching in primary, post-primary, further and higher education.

 

2.      
Ensure Ireland has a sustainable funding model to underpin a world class further and higher education system


Why?

Since their introduction over a decade ago, student fees have been the subject of a highly politicised debate. The most persuasive argument for introducing cost-sharing between the State and the individual is the absolute need for additional revenue for third level education. A significant increase in third level students has led to critical budgetary pressures which are not easily resolved in light of competing priorities for the use of public funds.

How? The Minister should:

  • introduce an effective student fees and income-contingent loan system to underpin the sustainability of a high-quality higher education system
  • reverse the damaging cuts to the higher education budget
  • modify student funding in a way that does not distinguish between full and part-time students
  • enable higher education institutions to have greater flexibility and autonomy on resource allocations so that they can attract and retain world-class talent
  • ensure that technological universities are established so that they can work with businesses to bring the learning experience closer to the world of work
  • develop a series of specific proposals to make the continuum of tertiary provision, between higher and further education, more systematic.

 

3.       Improve employability skills in further and higher education


Why?

Education institutions are a vital public good, making a crucial contribution to the intellectual, cultural, social and economic well-being of the country. However, we should not view the requirement for workplace skills and the cultivation of the intellect as some zero sum game. There is an onus on education institutions to provide their students with an understanding of their knowledge, skills and attributes in terms of the value that they can bring to prospective employers. This is particularly important for graduates from less vocational disciplines.

How? The Minister should:

  • ensure that more state funding is provided for further and higher education programmes with demonstrable links to employment
  • implement the Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeship in Ireland (2016-2020)
  • ensure that further education and training providers and higher education institutions deliver on the National Skills Strategy 2025 recommendation to provide meaningful employability statements for disciplines
  • make employer engagement a key metric in the higher education performance compacts and further education and training service plans.

 

4.       Reform the National Training Fund and improve upskilling/lifelong learning


Why?

Ireland’s lifelong learning rate, at just over 7%, is less than half the benchmark set by the EU under its Education and Training Framework (ET 2020), that aims to have 15% of adults aged 25-64 engaging in lifelong learning by 2020. While this under-performance cannot be totally attributed to lack of resources, it raises serious issues around the governance and use of the National Training Fund (NTF), the State’s main financial vehicle for upskilling.

How? The Minister should:

  • undertake a detailed cost-benefit analysis of all programmes supported by the NTF. NTF-supported programmes which are not meeting explicit employer-defined upskilling should be discontinued or funded from alternative exchequer sources
  • introduce governance structures to the NTF in which employers have a direct input to decisions on training priorities and funding allocation. At least 50% of its allocation should be directed toward in-company training programmes (such as those supported through Skillnets) and apprenticeships
  • implement major reorientation of the NTF to demand-driven training schemes. These could include a new cost reimbursement scheme which would enable employers to choose suitable training services from individual accredited education and training providers.

 

5.       Address the education policy implementation deficit


Why?

International experience suggests that many education reforms fail to deliver because they have little effect on what happens inside the classroom or lecture hall. Education is also prone to policy overload which happens when governments fall into the trap of developing plans that are too complex, too vague, and contain too many priorities. Policy overload also results in a lack of focus, fragmented priorities, and a sense of an endless stream of ad hoc initiatives. Successful reform plans are designed as much for the implementers—that is, the teachers, principals and higher education leaders—as they are for the planners themselves.

How? The Minister should:

  • continue engaging in the Action Plan for Education (2016-2020) process, where actions are monitored against published timelines, annual plan updates and responsibility for actions are clearly assigned.

 

6.       Use administrative data to produce meaningful and timely information on education outcomes


Why?

Meaningful and timely data on education and skills should accurately assess needs and demands in an agile way, while also examining the impact of any training provision in an economic context. The Higher Education Authority’s Graduate First Destination Survey, which has been running since 1982, provides useful information on first occupations of graduates, nine months after graduation. However, it has limited coverage of Higher Education Institutions and, more critically, only capture a short period of time. Employer satisfaction and student engagement surveys can suffer from unsatisfactory response rates (particularly amongst employers who are subjected to large numbers of surveys) and subjectivity. The major gap in skills measurement is in the use of administrative systems and effective utilisation of data held by public bodies.

How? The Minister should:

  • ensure that citizens’ education, employment and earnings data are linked with education and training outcomes, through coordination with relevant government departments and agencies.

 


About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 

Brief for Minister for Employment and Social Protection
 
Effective labour market policy, a reformed private pension system, and withdrawal of the private pension provisions of the Social Welfare Bill will help create a fairer environment for business and its workers.

Business priorities and solutions



1. An effective labour market policy


Why?

Employment law is already a highly regulated area in this country. Any further regulation of employment law must be evidence-based, and should not be introduced unless a real need is demonstrated.


How?
The Minister should:

  • ensure that any new regulations adopted are based on solid evidence and accompanied by both stakeholder consultation and regulatory impact assessments
  • avoid introducing legislation that could be disproportionate in scope, impose high costs on business and reduce employment creation
  • support employers in achieving and delivering work/life balance objectives by ensuring that legislation does not undermine an employer’s ability to be flexible. For example, the new proposals to extend parental leave by a further six weeks are significantly more costly and burdensome for employers when combined with the proposals in the Family Leave Bill to reduce the notice period for such leave from six to four weeks. An increase in the notice period to eight weeks would be a more valuable amendment. It would reduce the cost and disruption to business when replacing a parent taking leave with negligible impact employees who tend to plan such leave well in advance. 

 2. Reform the private pension system


Why?

Ireland’s favourable demographics, when compared to most developed countries, have allowed us to put our pension problems on the long finger. This grace period is now, however, coming to an end. If this issue remains unresolved, it risks doing serious damage to our consumer economy. With low public confidence and difficulty understanding pensions, fundamental reform of the existing funded private pensions system is needed.


How?
The Minister should:

  • engage fully with employers on critical pension reform issues, such as the introduction of an entry-level universal retirement savings scheme for workers who aren’t currently part of an occupational pension scheme and the governance of defined contribution schemes
  • raise scheme governance standards and risk management; implement an enhanced regulatory framework; and rationalise the types of pension vehicles and differing rules/tax treatments.

3. Withdraw the defined benefit pension provisions in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2017


Why?

Ibec shares the Government’s ambition to protect defined benefit scheme members, to encourage employers to ensure that schemes are well-funded and to prevent employers who ‘won’t pay’ as opposed to those who ‘can’t pay’ from walking away from the schemes they sponsor. However, the proposals in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2017 will have unintended negative consequences.  It will destabilise ongoing efforts of many employers and trustees to support and deliver on the pension promise made to scheme members and, in some cases, jeopardise the viability of the businesses involved.


How?
The Minister should:

  • conduct a fundamental overhaul of the funding standard regime. The standard should be replaced by a scheme-specific funding requirement, based on its true long-term cost
  • remove the funding standard reserve requirement and introduce more flexibility on annual funding checks
  • introduce a new way of getting a valuation because the standard insurance annuity system is not a good proxy for pricing annuities at closure. There should be greater flexibility on valuation dates and smoothing by averaging fund results over a period of time.

4. Review and update the Pathways to Work strategy


Why?

The Pathways to Work programme from 2012 to 2015 set out a comprehensive reform of the State’s approach to helping unemployed jobseekers return to work, and was designed to complement the Action Plan for Jobs as part of a twin-pronged approach to tackling the jobs crisis that emerged after 2008. However, there is a danger that unemployment services will slip down the political agenda during a time of labour market recovery. Ireland is particularly vulnerable to global impacts and shocks and we need to be prepared to respond to these. We need a dynamic activation strategy that is updated regularly to meet these changing requirements.


How?
The Minister should:

  • commit to more ambitious employment, participation and unemployment targets that reflect the reality of an economic recovery
  • introduce a programme of quantitative and qualitative studies of labour market activation schemes to evaluate the impact of the changes made to date and to inform future policy
  • continue to develop a more professional approach to engaging with employers. Suitably trained staff should be equipped with customer relationship management systems to gather data on the number of employers engaging with the Intreo service, the quality of that engagement and its outcomes.

5. Align labour market programmes with industrial policy and training provision

Why?

The Pathways to Work strategy should be closely aligned with broader government policy including Enterprise 2025, the national and regional Action Plans for Jobs, and the National Skills Strategy 2025. While the Pathways to Work 2016-2020 strategy acknowledges this imperative, it is less explicit about how it might happen, particularly at regional and local level. The establishment of the Regional Skills Fora is an attempt to address the challenge of developing a coherent activation and skills strategy that can be effectively implemented by a diverse range of actors. 


How?

The Minister should:

  • make a greater effort to co-ordinate the delivery of services to employers across the various State agencies, including Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), Education and Training Boards (ETBs), Intreo, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland
  • ensure training and education for unemployed people are designed to meet identified skills needs. It will be important for the Department of Social Protection to work with SOLAS and the ETBs and other organisations providing services to jobseekers (such as Jobs Clubs) to ensure that consistent and high standard career guidance service is provided to unemployed people and others of working age.
  • ensure that the Department’s regional offices engage with employers in a cohesive manner through the Regional Skills Fora.

6. Embed a culture of evidence-based labour market programme selection and design


Why?

The development of appropriate programmes and interventions needs to take due account of experience and evidence as to what type of programmes work best in particular circumstances or for particular cohorts of jobseekers. For this reason and in order to maximise the impact of public funds and resources available to provide services to jobseekers, an ambitious programme of evaluations should be completed.


How?
The Minister should:

  • continue, and where appropriate expand, those programmes that are found to enhance the employment prospects of their participants in an efficient manner
  • scale back and adjust those programmes that are not meeting the objective of assisting their participants to secure employment.

7. Introduce a new Work Experience scheme to replace JobBridge


Why?

The Minister for Social Protection announced the closure of JobBridge in October 2016, despite a report from international consultants that the programme had helped around two thirds of participants - 38,000 people - to re-enter the jobs market.


How?
The Minister should:

  • introduce a new programme that builds upon the successes of JobBridge, and incorporating the lessons from the evaluation and related studies. The new programme should have a stronger focus on skills, paying at least the minimum wage, and focusing on those unemployed for at least six months.

 

About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

Brief for Minister for Enterprise and Innovation
 

Ireland’s ambition to be a global leader in innovation can be delivered through research excellence and talent development.


Business priorities and solutions


1. Commit to increase investment in R&D

 

Why?

Ireland’s ambition to be a global leader in innovation can be delivered through research excellence and talent development.  Investing in research, technology and innovation is a key factor in driving sustainable economic growth. Investment is complementary and typically for every €1 Government invests in R&D, industry will invest €2. This must be underpinned by capital expenditure commitments and the implementation of national strategies to increase research intensity at business level. It is imperative that we remain an attractive place to conduct research and innovation as well as facilitating the emergence and scaling of our indigenous enterprise base.


How?
The Minister for Enterprise and Innovation should:

  • commit to increasing public investment in R&D as part of an overall strategy to bring national R&D intensity to at least 2.5% of GDP over the medium-term.

2. Better regulation


Why?

Poorly designed policy, legislation and regulation add to the cost of doing business in Ireland and are obstacles to growth and job creation. Ireland requires effective employment regulation, the need for a pro-innovation regulatory environment and an economic regulatory regime that enables, rather than restricts, Irish enterprise. In the context of Brexit, regulatory divergence in the UK could represent non-tariff barriers to trade. 


How?
The Minister for Enterprise and Innovation should:

  • create a systematic approach to mitigating the impact of laws and regulations through stakeholder engagement, regulatory impact assessments and ex-post evaluations
  • embrace the better regulation agenda at home and lead on it in Europe, benefitting Irish exports across the single market. 

3. Complete the Single Market


Why?

The EU must continue to add value to business. Irish business requires a renewed commitment to the Single Market, including prioritising the Digital Single Market. Effective completion of the Single Market and a globally competitive digital economy will deliver more jobs, growth and prosperity to Ireland.


How?
The Minister for Enterprise and Innovation should:

  • ensure both Ireland and its European partners complete the Single Market. The Article 50 negotiations provide an opportunity to identify and address lingering gaps in the market and take steps to better harness growth potential
  • work towards completing a Single Market that: boosts cross-border trade in goods and services across the EU; encourages a EU Digital Single Market that works; cuts red tape and does not rule business out; unlocks investment in infrastructure – energy, digital and transport - underpinning the Single Market; and encourages business services that meet the needs of the broader economy
  • intensify the work of the interdepartmental committee, established by the Department of An Taoiseach, to co-ordinate a whole-of-government response to delivering the Digital Single Market, and advancing Ireland as a leading global digital economy.


4. Enable Ireland’s enterprise base to optimise growth opportunities in the global economy

 

Why?

Brexit presents numerous challenges to the economy as a whole, and also to the individual businesses that will be affected. Through long-standing trade links, Ireland’s enterprise base is uniquely exposed to the disruption of Brexit.  A new approach is required to achieve economic resilience and maintain long-term growth. New policy thinking is needed to address the low management capacity of indigenous SMEs, in particular.


How?
The Minister for Enterprise and Innovation should:

  • secure a temporary EU framework for state aid to allow Government offset the worst impacts of Brexit on otherwise viable firms through enterprise stabilisation, restructuring, marketing and innovation supports
  • maintain a vibrant manufacturing sector through effective capital investment supports and targeted measures on innovation, research and skills
  • increase the grant aid for management courses for SMEs, expanding mentoring programmes and increasing the participation of SMEs in large-scale R&D centres.  

5. International trade and investment agreements

 

Why?

Ireland is the fastest growing economy in Europe thanks largely to robust trade in goods and services. During and following the financial crisis, the export sector continued to perform well; in 2016 exports of goods reached €117 billion while in 2015 exports of services were valued at €121.6 billion. For this reason, it is critically important that Government policy promotes and supports trade.


How?
The Minister for Enterprise and Innovation should:

  • ensure that Ireland plays a leading role in shaping, completing and adopting EU agreements with Asia, the US, and others to support trade and investment opportunities for business
  • continue with the implementation of commitments in the Ireland Connected trade strategy and sectoral enterprise strategies. The Export Trade Council must sustain its important role in monitoring Ireland’s trade strategy and in taking stock of progress and opportunities.


About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 

Brief for Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform
 
Implementing a competitve tax regime that enhances innovation and R&D while better supporting entrepreneurship and SMEs is crucial if we are to overcome the challenges posed by a changing global enviornment.

Business priorities and solutions



1. Adopt more sensible fiscal policy to support investment and productivity


Why?

Following the exceptional surge in both employment and the population, capacity constraints are now the biggest risk to continued economic growth. Ireland’s infrastructure stock is comparatively weak and the level of public capital investment is the lowest in the EU. Any calls to increase public spending further in real terms must be based on clear economic rationale such as increasing underfunded capital or R&D investment or supporting activities which are complimentary to a properly functioning labour market such as childcare, housing or education.


How? The Minister should:

  • balance current spending and taxation over the medium-term. Re-focus current spending on areas with large economic and social dividends, such as R&D, education or childcare
  • push for reform of the EU fiscal rules to treat capital more favourably than current spending
  • reverse the policy decision to smooth over the 2015 growth figures in the calculation of our stability and growth pact compliance, releasing an additional €7 billion is fiscal space for once-off public investment between now and 2021
  • abandon plans for a debt to GDP target of 45% which is well below the required EU mark of 60%
  • drive a more ambitious approach of the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in order to maximise the opportunities provided by the availability of private finance for infrastructure.

 


2. 
Make work pay and support talent development, attraction and retention


Why?

Business finds it increasingly difficult to source the talent it needs for further expansion. Meanwhile Ireland continues to have the highest marginal tax rate at average earnings in the OECD. Our income tax model is now a significant barrier to attracting and retaining mobile talent, while also providing incentive to work challenges right across the economy.


How? The Minister should:

  • reduce the fully loaded top rate of tax to 47% for all workers over the coming budgets.
  • increase significantly the entry point to the top rate of tax so that no worker on average earnings should be charged at the marginal rate.
  • support greater use of the National Training Fund to develop talent and to promote employer-led training initiatives such as Skillnets and Apprenticeship.


3. Preserve Ireland’s competitive corporate tax model


Why?

The OECD has just overseen the most significant change in global corporate tax in nearly a century. Ireland has been one of the leading beneficiaries of these changes; matching corporate profits with substance, and resulting in a cascade of new business activity. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is crucial to Ireland’s open globalised economy and this should remain so.


How? The Minister should:

  • maintain the competitiveness of our transparent 12.5% corporate tax regime
  • supplement our corporation tax rate with improvements to key areas of our FDI offering and stand ready to react if US corporate tax changes challenge our competitiveness for mobile investment
  • resist any efforts at EU level to harmonise corporate tax systems over and above that already agreed under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative.



4. Enhance tax policy to better support entrepreneurship and SMEs


Why?

More than 98% of Irish firms employ fewer than 20 people, with these companies employing 44% of the workforce. Unfortunately entrepreneurs and the self-employed are subject to more onerous tax treatment than employees. In order to create a truly entrepreneurial culture, and rise to the competitiveness challenges posed by Brexit, this must change.


How? The Minister should:

  • ensure a level playing field in relation to Ireland’s business tax offering for indigenous business. This is in the context of a raised possibility of Irish SMEs servicing the UK market from within because of potential trade restrictions post-Brexit, and the more preferable tax treatment of SMEs in the UK
  • equalise the personal tax treatment of the self-employed with their PAYE counterparts
  • make targeted changes to investment taxation which would make investing in indigenous Irish business a much more attractive proposition
  • introduce a simplified R&D tax credit meaning that smaller firms are better able to overcome funding constraints on their innovative activity
  • reform the taxation of share options to make it much easier for firms to attract and retain key talent.



5. Continue making progress on public sector reform and e-government


Why?

Reform fatigue is clearly setting in, but the drive to improve public services should not begin and end in times of fiscal rectitude. In recent years, the focus on public services was solely from the point of the provider. The politics of provision often loses sight of the actual services to be provided, and those who rely on them. These two perspectives should not be confused.


How? The Minister should:

  • establish a new five-year plan to transform public services based on the use of shared services, outsourcing, better public procurement and e-government
  • examine all government services for appropriateness to be delivered online. Targets should be set to transition specific services to online
  • benchmark the cost of providing services to consumers across all delivery channels so as to ensure a full understanding of the unit costs of provision. Savings on the reform dividend should be used to offset the technology investment.



6. 
Deliver the most competitive tax regime for R&D and innovation in the world


Why?

The advent of the OECD’s BEPS initiative affords Ireland an opportunity to secure high valued research projects. In order to realise our goal of 2.5% GDP spend on R&D, we need to make sure Ireland is an attractive location for large cross-border R&D projects, and that more small companies innovate sooner. The R&D tax credit has been a successful model in encouraging Irish companies to invest in R&D and create value in the economy. An Ibec study showed that for every €1 received in tax credit, participating firms spend approximately an additional €1.25 on R&D over and above what they would otherwise have spent.


How? The Minister should:

  • improve the reputation of our R&D tax credit by making it more flexible and providing greater administrative certainty in its operation
  • make cost neutral changes to the R&D legislation to provide companies with an option to claim the R&D tax credit at 37.5% ‘above the line’ while foregoing the associated corporate tax deduction at 12.5%.

 

7. Position Ireland’s regulatory stance to balance competitiveness and stability


Why?

Developments such as the rise of Asia as a potential market for service exports, the new administration in the US, and Brexit create opportunities for Ireland to grow employment in traded services. However differences in regulation could alter relative sectoral competitiveness, making it important that sectors with growth potential are supported to offset any sectors that are disadvantaged.


How? The Minister should:

  • complement the appointment of a Minister of State for Financial Services with continued support for and resourcing of the successful IFS 2020 strategy
  • assess Ireland’s attractiveness and challenges in terms of firms seeking an alternative location to London in the wake of Brexit
  • resource the regulation of traded services sectors (such as finance) so that authorisation and supervisory policies in Ireland do not disadvantage us vis-à-vis other EU states
  • develop a clear regional strategy to channel any jobs growth in traded services arising as a result of Brexit proportionately to Ireland’s regions
  • ensure transitional arrangements are in place to avoid disruption in service industries most affected by regulation and where employment is heavily dependent on Irish British trade.

About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

Brief for Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
 
Brexit will fundamentally impact Irish trade, tourism and investment patterns resulting in opportunities as well as threats to the Irish business model. The Minister can help Ireland prepare for Brexit through supporting market diversification and continuing to improve access to key priority markets.

Business priorities and solutions



1. Protect and prepare Ireland for a UK exit from the EU


Why?

Brexit will fundamentally impact Irish trade, tourism and investment patterns resulting in opportunities and threats to the Irish business model. Business is concerned about the competitiveness implications of potential new border and customs procedures, which is likely to be more severe in a ‘hard Brexit’ scenario. Irish business should not be unduly disadvantaged vis-à-vis competitors in terms of regulatory stance, tax policy or the availability of infrastructure.


How? The Minister should:

  • secure commitments in any EU-UK deal that recognise the unique economic and political challenges that Brexit presents to Ireland; put in place a range of contingency measures including provisions on travel and labour market rights, while addressing Ireland’s trade exposure and the challenges presented by the land border with Northern Ireland
  • ensure the EU provides a state-aid framework to enable companies to trade successfully through Brexit’s disruption, retain UK market share, and diversify
  • ensure, through work with EU colleagues and the UK, comprehensive transitional arrangements to avoid a precarious ‘cliff edge’ scenario, and allow businesses time to adapt to a new trading relationship
  • ensure a level playing field in relation to Ireland’s business tax offering for indigenous business. This is in the context of a raised possibility of Irish SMEs servicing the UK market from within because of potential trade restrictions post-Brexit, and the more preferable tax treatment of SMEs in the UK
  • collaborate with colleagues in the EU and the UK to ensure  the closest possible EU-UK relationship post-Brexit
  • ensure a smooth and orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU by working with EU colleagues and the UK to promote a fair financial settlement and a comprehensive agreement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU.



2. 
Support diversification and continue to improve access to key priority markets


Why?

Ireland has benefited significantly from globalisation and the global free trade agenda. However in recent years criticism of globalisation has overshadowed the benefits and this has resulted in a pervasive anti-trade rhetoric in many of our trading partners. Maintaining access to existing markets and supporting market diversification will become increasingly important for Irish business facing global uncertainties.


How? The Minister should:

  • maximise access to international markets. This is particularly important to enable industry to reach objectives and targets set out in Enterprise 2025, Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025
  • continue to build commercial acumen in Ireland’s embassies abroad
  • seek further opening of global markets through their role as chair of Export Trade Council and support Irish business in developing trade through well-coordinated and targeted trade missions.



3. Protect Ireland’s international reputation and promote continued investment by Irish and foreign owned firms


Why?

Through EU membership and the embracing of globalisation, Ireland has been transformed from a small island nation with low economic activity, to a highly competitive country with some of the world’s highest living standards. Ireland’s support of the European Single Market and the internationalisation of business have been transformative for the Irish business community. Ireland’s track record in attracting substance-based corporate investment needs to be highlighted and better explained internationally.


How? The Minister should:

  • promote and explain at an international level Ireland’s track record in attracting substance-based corporate investment
  • ensure optimum conditions, at both national and EU level, for investment
  • work with Cabinet colleagues to secure flexibility in existing EU fiscal rules to allow for infrastructure investment to stimulate growth and competitiveness.



4.      
Safeguard Ireland’s position in the European Union


Why?

In a challenging global environment, the European Commission has launched several papers (and intends to launch more) to generate a discussion both between and within member states on the future of the European Union. It is critical to our competitiveness that this does not lead to a two tier Europe that disadvantages Ireland.


How? The Minister should:

  • support improved cooperation and communication between euro and non-euro member states. A strong and resilient single currency will benefit Europe as a whole, not just the Eurozone countries
  • continue to constructively engage with EU27 partners post Brexit on Irish strategic issues
  • promote positive relations between the EU and the UK post-Brexit
  • coordinate with Cabinet colleagues to secure flexibility in existing EU fiscal rules to allow for infrastructure investment to stimulate growth and competitiveness
  • champion pro-enterprise single market policies, particularly in the digital economy area



5.       Promote the advantages of open, global markets


Why?

Irish business benefits from the interconnected global trading system that has developed in recent decades. However, the protectionist mood that has appeared across the world in recent years is a risk to the Irish business and economic model. Increasingly, populations of western countries are sceptical of globalisation.


How? The Minister should:

  • communicate the benefits of open markets and EU membership at domestic and international level by illustrating the importance of tariff elimination and the removal of trade and investment barriers to Irish economic development
  • establish an eco-system of digital trade. Today many services are provided digitally and hardly any economic activity can be conducted without digital operations in one way or another. Digital trade covers all types of cross-border economic activities
  • resist trade restrictive measures which prohibit cross-border data flows
  • promote open market access for goods and services including through engagement at the OECD, WTO and other international institutions
  • challenge localisation barriers to trade. Many of these non-tariff measures present new and more complex hurdles that preclude businesses from effectively competing in the global markets



6.       Support a robust EU trade policy


Why?

The European Commission has exclusive competence for trade policy of EU member states. A robust EU trade policy enables Irish business to trade with the rest of the world. The EU must remain a champion for free trade, promote the benefits of globalisation and lead the conversation on how to ensure these benefits are understood and felt across society.


How? The Minister should:

  • ensure that Irish business interests are safeguarded in the negotiation of EU free trade agreements (FTAs)
  • support the EU to maintain an ambitious agenda for the conclusion of FTAs
  • promote positive dialogue on free trade domestically.

 


About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 

 

Brief for Minister for Health
 
Making Ireland’s healthcare infrastructure world class; promoting a culture of innovation leadership within the healthcare system; and the reformulation of food and drink to reduce fat are among the business priorities for the Minister. 

Introduction

Ireland is recognised as a global medtech hub with 18 of the world’s top 25 companies in the industry having a base here. Ireland is first for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Europe and annual exports are worth more than 10% of Irish exports, at €12.6 billion. There are as many as 450 medtech businesses employing people in every Irish constituency, with 80% being SMEs or start-ups, and 60% being home-grown.

The manufacturing of food and drink products is Ireland's most important indigenous industry with a turnover approaching €24 billion and 250,000 jobs linked to the sector. It produces safe, high quality and sustainable food and drink for consumers in Ireland and 180 other countries. It accounts for almost half the direct expenditure by the entire manufacturing sector in the Irish economy.

The following is a set of priorities from business for the Minister for Health. They are intended to help us all work together to drive a new era that will be good for patients’ health; good for healthcare and food companies; good for employment, particularly in rural Ireland and its regional cities; and good for the Irish economy.

 

Business priorities and solutions


1. Make Ireland’s healthcare infrastructure world class

Why?

Healthcare systems globally are increasingly challenged by greater demands for services in the face of diminishing fiscal resources. The adoption of innovative processes and solutions within the health system would support improved patient outcomes with big data driving more clinical decision making for better results.


How?

The Minister should:

  • ensure the adoption in hospitals of the latest information systems, the newest innovations and technologies, as well as learn from best-in-class business models.


2. Promote a culture of innovation leadership within the Irish healthcare system


Why?

The Government must do more to leverage recent investments and reward a culture that promotes innovation. The level of clinical investigations taking place in Ireland is currently low given the high number of medtech businesses based here. A robust clinical research infrastructure would benefit patients and help attract more FDI as well as international talent.


How?
The Minister should:

  • invest in world class facilities for R&D across medical schools, research centres and hospitals
  • incentivise clinical-industry engagement to support commercialisation of novel innovations
  • ensure the Knowledge Development Box supports different ways of generating intellectual property (IP).


3. Reduce healthcare costs by adding value

Why?

The ability to adopt new and advanced technologies is essential for best practice in patient care. There is an opportunity for Ireland to become an ‘early adopter’ of medical technology as a measurement of best practice in modern, international, healthcare systems. This should be reflected in a change to public procurement which is done strategically by adopting innovative technology that focuses on value to patients, rather than short term costs.


How?
The Minister should:

  • adopt a procurement process that promotes long-term quality results over short-term costs
  • give hospitals and patients more choice by making it easier for SMEs to tender for contracts.


4. Help medtech business win


Why?

The medtech sector is committed to an ecosystem of regulatory excellence focused on patient care and safety, as already evidenced by the world-class reputation of the sector. It is vital that Ireland remains an attractive and competitive place for companies, from SMEs and start-ups to multinational corporations. It is in the best interests of the Irish medtech sector that a fair pan-European approach to funding medtech regulatory activity is agreed.

 

How? The Minister should:

  • ensure a centralised and equitable pan-European approach to fund medtech regulatory activity as an alternative to non-harmonised national fee models to support medical device regulatory activities being implemented across Europe.

 

5. The reformulation to reduce fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt and calories

Why?

Food and drink companies in Ireland are committed to improving the health of the nation through reformulating products to reduce fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar; while maintaining the highest standards of product safety, integrity and taste.

 

In the first Food Drink Ireland Reformulation Project report, launched by the then Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD, 600 products from 14 of Ireland’s major food and drink companies were analysed, demonstrating over a seven year (2005 – 2012) period salt content reduction of 37%; sugar content reduction of 14%; a reduction of energy by 12% (as measured in calories sold); and fat and saturated fat intake reduced by approximately 10%.

 

The work by the industry must be supported by the Minister for Health if, together, we will continue to have a significant and positive impact on the diet of Irish consumers. 

 

How?
The Minister should:

  • continue to support and engage with future Food Drink Ireland reformulation projects
  • establish a National Reformulation Technical Working Group, but avoid setting arbitrary targets for further reduction of fat, sugar and salt which would put companies which have already undertaken considerable reformulation programmes at an effective disadvantage due to inevitable diminishing returns
  • offer Food Drink Ireland a central role in the National Reformulation Technical Working Group
  • use evidence-based methods, outcomes and targets when setting public policy and public health measures.


6. Reconsider the introduction of a sugar sweetened drink tax

 

Why?

The Department of Health’s own Health Impact Assessment of the proposed tax showed that a sugar sweetened drinks tax would reduce overweight and obesity by just 0.3% in Ireland. [1]

The challenges of Brexit faced by the food and drink sector point to the need to support, rather than tax, the Irish food and drink industry. A sugar-sweetened drinks tax would be an additional tax on soft drinks, to which VAT already applies. And a sugar sweetened tax would lead to a likely increase in cross-border trade and the black/grey markets, which would damage Irish businesses and jobs as well as making the tax-take highly unstable.

 

How?
The Minister for Health should:

  • levy no additional tax on soft drinks
  • concentrate on the public health measures of proven efficacy such as sugar reduction through product reformulation
  • not impose an undue burden on business if the sugar-sweetened drinks tax is introduced. If such a tax is introduced, there should be a sufficient lead-in time; be clear and measurable targets; and provision for reviews and sunset clauses.


7. Tackle alcohol misuse sensibly

 

Why?

Alcohol consumption has declined by almost 20% since 2001 in Ireland. More than half of those surveyed in 2015 drink alcohol less frequently than once a week[2], and there has been a decline in the numbers engaged in binge drinking.


Despite substantial evidence of real reductions in alcohol misuse, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been introduced following little or no engagement with industry. 

Measures in the Bill will:

  • threaten jobs in an industry that employs 90,000 people, generates €3 billion in GDP annually, and €1.1 billion in exports
  • increase cross-border shopping
  • stifle entrepreneurship, innovation and new product development by severely restricting advertising and marketing; negatively impact rural Ireland.


How?

The Minister for Health should:

  • review the DKM report[3] (commissioned by ABFI which represents the sector within Ibec) that conducted a rigorous socio-economic impact assessment on the Bill
  • consider the context of the long term downward trend in alcohol consumption and youth drinking in Ireland
  • consider the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of the proposed measures in the Bill
  • place the existing strict advertising codes agreed with the Department of Health on a statutory footing  and work with industry collaboratively in tackling alcohol misuse in an innovative way.

 

About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 



[1] Proposed Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax: Health Impact Assessment, Technical Report, Institute of Public Health in Ireland, p. 138.

[2] The Healthy Ireland Survey 2015, commissioned by the Department of Health.

[3] Socio-Economic Impacts of Proposed Regulations under the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill; Final Report to the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, 13 February 2017. (www.abfi.ie)

 

Brief for Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government
 
The business priorities for the new Minister include overhauling the commercial rates system; improving the effectiveness of national and regional planning; and tackling the bureaucratic barriers that are hindering the development of vital infrastructure.

Business priorities and solutions 

1. Overhaul the commercial rates system


Why?

Local business, not central government, is the primary funder of local authorities. This is unsustainable. Exchequer cutbacks have left local businesses to plug the budgetary gap. This undermines local cost competitiveness and capacity for job creation.


How?

The Minister should:

  • reform and modernise the commercial rates system in order to rebalance local authority financing and reduce the burden on business
  • improve the effectiveness of the rates collection process. Coordinate with the Department of Justice and Equality to streamline the valuations process and commercial rates system, making them more efficient and transparent.

2. Improve the effectiveness of national and regional planning


Why?

We are living with the legacy of historic policy failure on spatial planning. The now-defunct National Spatial Strategy was well-intentioned but ineffectively implemented. Urban sprawl and traffic congestion adds to the cost of doing business. Regional economic development has been unbalanced and, in some cases, wasteful of scarce resources. Our housing and transport systems are struggling to cope with society’s growing needs. Given Ireland’s reliance on international trade, our cities need to become more attractive places to live and work.


How?

The Minister should:

  • expedite placing the National Planning Framework (NPF) on a secure legal footing. The NPF must set out a vision for making our major cities more liveable, for revitalising regional towns, and for targeted infrastructure investment in the regions.
  • ensure consistency between Regional and Local Authority planning throughout the implementation of the NPF.

3. Tackle bureaucratic barriers that are hindering the development of vital infrastructure


Why?

Many projects have been subject to unnecessary delays, postponement or worse, planning issues.  Despite the Department’s recent review of the effectiveness of An Bord Pleanála, the planning process for strategic projects remains slow and cumbersome, with poorly-defined timelines. Decisions on smaller projects are often hampered by local authority boundary issues or lack of expert resources. The supply of new housing for Dublin in particular has been restricted by perverse rules on maximum building heights.


How?

The Minister should:

  • provide sufficient resourcing to the new Office of the Planning Regulator. Given the slow rate of progress of much recent Oireachtas legislation, recruitment of key staff may well need to commence before the Office has statutory backing
  • require  An Bord Pleanála to publish meaningful data on the length of time it takes to process planning applications for strategic infrastructure, and to account for any undue delays in responding.

4. Avoid unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of indigenous clean energy


Why?

Ireland will struggle to meet its international commitments on greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy. If we fail to make the best use of available domestic resources, the Government will be obliged to purchase a large number of credits from other EU member states.  That money could instead be spent creating high quality jobs in Ireland.


How?

The Minister should:

  • create Strategic Development Zones for renewable energy production, including biomass, wind and solar, in order to prevent vexatious objections
  • remain cognisant of the potential adverse effect of more restrictive wind planning guidelines on the available land resource
  • encourage community engagement while discouraging certain local authorities from imposing punitively high development levies that don’t actually benefit local communities.

5. Ensure that water and wastewater services are adequately and appropriately funded


Why?

The supply of clean, affordable water services is essential for business. High quality municipal wastewater treatment is also important to protect our lakes and rivers. Despite good progress by Irish Water in upgrading the creaking infrastructure, a huge amount of additional investment will be needed over the next decade. The ability to plan and prioritise a cost-effective investment programme hinges on Irish Water having certainty over long-term funding. However, the recent scrapping of domestic water charges in favour of general taxation means that that project planning may henceforth be done on a less efficient short-term basis.  Businesses are concerned that they may end up paying more for a lower quality service as a consequence.


How?
The Minister should:

  • seek an Exchequer commitment to guarantee funding for Irish Water’s capital programme over a multi-year period corresponding to the Commission of Energy Regulation’s (CER) Revenue Control Period. The Department should not seek to second-guess CER’s decision on the appropriate programme of capital investment.

6. Deliver a workable regime for Foreshore Licences and Marine Spatial Planning


Why?

Ireland’s coastal waters have a huge potential for sustainable economic development.  However, the potential remains largely untapped. One of the main obstacles is that the regulatory framework for foreshore planning dates back to the 1930s. It is simply not fit for purpose in Ireland’s twenty-first century economy. Beyond the foreshore lies a vast marine area under Irish control. Our marine spatial planning regime needs a complete overhaul if we are to achieve the economic benefits identified in ‘Harvesting Our Ocean Wealth’.


How?

The Minister should:

  • establish into law the Marine Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill
  • hasten the development of a Marine Spatial Planning Framework and align to be completed alongside the National Planning Framework.

 

About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 

Brief for Minister for Justice and Equality
 
The completion of the EU Digital Single Market framework, an anti-digital piracy campaign, and the reform of the valuations system underlying the commercial rates-setting process are among the business priorities for the new Minister.

Business priorities and solution

1. Accelerate the EU and Ireland’s development as leading globally competitive digital economies


Why?

Completing an effective EU Digital Single Market framework and full adoption of digital technologies could be leveraged to add €27 billion to our GDP and have a positive net effect of up to 140,000 jobs by 2020[1].


How?
The Minister should:

  • engage industry and other interested stakeholders on policy that may impact Ireland’s growing digital economy – avoid excessive regulation
  • ensure that implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Bill balances privacy, security and innovation in a digital single market that works
  • work with line departments and EU partners to align the proposed ePrivacy Regulation (EPR) with the General Data Protection Regulation and not disrupt the current balance between protecting personal data and facilitating innovative business models. Quality should take priority over speed in this process. Sufficient time is needed by the co-legislators to fully consider and improve the EPR proposal. Stakeholders who will apply the final result should also receive sufficient time to prepare.
  • continue to invest in Ireland’s data protection and cyber-security frameworks to protect our growing digital economy.

2. Tackle digital piracy

Why?

Digital piracy inflicts significant damage on the economy. It leads to job losses and reduced exchequer income. It has been exacerbated by the increased proliferation of hosting sites that offer live television streams of premium programming and IPTV devices that provide unauthorised access to pay-television services. Major losses are suffered by the Exchequer, by rights holders and by providers of subscription television services. The UK Intellectual Property Office’s Crime Highlight Report 2014/15 states that there is a direct link between intellectual property crime and other serious criminal activity.

How?
The Minister should:

  • coordinate an anti digital piracy campaign as part of a wider strategy to protect intellectual property, positioning Ireland as a location of choice for content creation
  • increase resources within An Garda Síochána to enable greater enforcement.

3. Reform the valuations process


Why?

The valuations system underlying the commercial rates-setting process is arcane. The revaluations process conducted by the Valuations Office is too slow, too expensive and seriously lacking in transparency. The process is designed to be revenue neutral so that local authorities are not left with holes in their budget. This approach creates ‘winners and losers’ in local authority areas where revaluation has occurred. Government estimates that 60% of businesses will see a reduction in their rates bill, leaving 40% facing higher charges. Evidence already points to increases in rates liabilities being immediate substantial and unforeseen.


How?

The Minister should:

  • acknowledge the direct link between the valuations process and the commercial rates system and examine the impact that both, when taken together, have on local business conditions and cost competitiveness
  • increase transparency of the operation of the Valuations Office, including publications of detailed reports on outcomes of a revaluations process in a local authority area containing scales of average increase/decrease of valuations across different valuations categories
  • ensure the Valuations Office publish data sets publicly to facilitate comparison of valuations across the country and across sectors. This occurs in the United Kingdom
  • ensure local charges and the methodologies used in valuing all fixed assets are in line with other countries so they don’t undermine investment locally (e.g. renewable energy)
  • improve the efficiency of the Valuations Office through the use of external contractors and self-assessment. The valuations system should be re-designed to achieve the efficiency and effectiveness of the local property tax (LPT) system.

4. Effectively address the gender pay gap


Why?

The gender pay gap in Ireland is 13.9% according to Eurostat, less than the EU average of 16.7% but still a significant gap. It refers to the difference between what is earned on average by women and men, based on average gross hourly earnings of all paid employees. The reasons for a gender pay gap can be multifaceted and tend to cover four key, interrelated areas: a gender segregated labour market; balancing work and family life; availability of quality, affordable childcare facilities and out-of-school hours care; and over-representation of women in part-time roles.


How?

The Minister should:

  • replace the proposed transparency gender pay gap survey measure as it oversimplifies a complex issue and it open to misinterpretation. Instead, introduce a committed whole-of-government approach to allow Ireland to tap into the full potential of our male and female talent and effectively address the gender pay gap
  • address gender norms and challenge occupational and social stereotypes that remain regarding educational subject choices and career decisions of men and women. This requires interventions in teacher training, career guidance, raising awareness in parents and students alike.
  • deliver a whole-of-government approach on high quality available and affordable childcare facilities, out of hours care arrangements and other public services should be strengthened by government and public authorities
  • challenge the experiences of career returners and ensure that the period of time they have stepped away from their career does not relegate them to a position much lower than they left or find them unable to recover from such a break.

 

About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

 

 



[1] Boston Consulting Group (2016) Digitizing Ireland – How Ireland can drive and benefit from an accelerated digitized economy in Europe.

Brief for Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
 
Reduced congestion, improved transport links, and mitigating the effects of Brexit on the movement of people and goods are key to ensuring Ireland's transport system evolves to serve our changing economy and society.

Business priorities and solutions


1. Reduce congestion in our cities


Why?

Ireland’s transport systems are struggling to cope with society’s growing needs. A chronic transport infrastructure deficit has made our cities less ‘liveable’.

Congestion imposes costs on business, increasing average journey times by 43% in Dublin; 34% in Cork; and 27% in Limerick. This represents a hindrance to attracting skilled staff and competing for inward investment.


How?

The Minister should:

  • ensure better integrated public transport within and between our regional cities to encourage modal switch from private cars
  • ensure substantial investment targeted at bottlenecks
  • ensure faster delivery of planned projects such as the National Transport Association’s ‘BusConnects’project, and the Cork Area Strategic Plan for Transport.

2. Improve transport links to our ports and airports


Why? 

As an island on the edge of Europe, Ireland isheavily dependent oninternational trade and tourism for its prosperity. Our major ports and airports are investing in enhanced capacity to meet future demand for passengers and freight. However, the Government needs to ensure that they are well connected to the Irish cities and regions they serve.


How?
  The Minister should:

  • expedite the planning and construction of key transport infrastructure projects, prioritising them in line with regional needs highlighted in Ibec’s submission on the National Planning Framework (NPF).


3. Enhance transport links between our regional cities


Why?

Although road links between Dublin and the regions have greatly improved in recent years, our regional cities remain poorly connected with each other. It is a hindrance to effective regional development.


How?

The Minister should:

  • develop a transport network to support an Atlantic Cities Strategy as an economic counterweight to the Greater Dublin region
  • enhance road and rail connection between regions, through greater ambition for investment than is currently envisaged in the Government’s Capital Plan
  • implement measures to ensure fewer infrastructure projects get delayed in lengthy planning and consents procedures.

4. Mitigate the potential adverse impact of Brexit on movement of people and goods


Why?

There is huge uncertainty over future customs arrangements for our land border with Northern Ireland and our seaports connecting to Britain. It is also unclear whether the EU Common Aviation Area will continue to include the UK. Although it is too early to predict the course of negotiations on transport and trade issues, we can expect a degree of disruption. It is time to start planning for whatever infrastructure and IT systems are needed to keep traffic flowing.

How?
The Minister should:

  • ensure early engagement with business stakeholders (including members of the Irish Ports Association and Ibec’s Transport & Infrastructure Council) on ways to influence the outcome of Brexit negotiations, and options to mitigate traffic disruption.

5. Encourage decarbonisation of transport and improved air quality


Why?

Land transport accounts for a large and growing share of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. As a consequence, we will struggle to meet our EU-mandated emissions reduction and renewable energy targets for 2020 and beyond. Motor tax and fuel excise incentives to favour diesel over petrol have reduced the quantity of emissions per vehicle kilometre in recent years, but this has been more than offset by growth in traffic volumes over the period. Meanwhile, air quality in urban areas has deteriorated significantly due to elevated levels of other airborne pollutants such as NOx and particulates. This is causing serious health problems for vulnerable citizens living and working in our towns and cities.


How?
The Minister should:  

  • ensure that clean transport energy is affordable, comfortable and reliable. This is a complex problem requiring a combination of new technologies and improved planning practices
  • promote a significant increase in the use of public transport
  • promote the use of natural gas, LPG and electric vehicles alongside blended biodiesel.


6. Allow the private sector a greater role in delivering transport infrastructure


Why?

The Government’s recent consultation on the mid-term review of the Capital Plan 2016-21 is predicated on an extra €2.6 billion of fiscal space becoming available over the remaining period. Ibec considers that this is utterly inadequate to remedy the country’s ‘lost decade’ of under-investment.


How?

The Minister should:

  • use innovative sources of finance to unlock a far greater level of investment, as well as principles for ensuring that the best projects get prioritised.


About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.