- Our banking system is still not functioning as a business banking system. Until it does, job creation will be stymied.
- In order to maximise opportunities from the renewable sector, we should adapt an all island approach, establishing an All Island Renewable Energy Company with an examination of the possibilities of a common planning and tax system specifically for renewables.
- The decision of the Ggovernment to concentrate on the basics in the educational curriculum especially in maths is crucial to future job creation in the IT & High Tech sector.
Cathaoirleach, Minister, fellow speakers, ladies & gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be back at Mac Gill. I commend Joe Mulholland, Mary Claire and their committee for once again producing an excellent school in spite of the pressure of both recession and in the case of Mac Gill an extended Dáil term. And I am particularly happy that we are putting the focus on job creation tonight.
Whilst this school celebrates Patrick Mac Gill the writer, it is appropriate in the context of this debate to remember Patrick Mac Gill the entrepreneur. At the age of 21, he self published a volume of poetry called “Gleaning from a Navvy’s Scrapbook” and then proceeded to sell it door to door apparently selling over 7000 copies. So it is guided by that spirit that I wish to outline some of my own thought on job creation this evening.
First off though, I want to comment on the deals struck in Brussels on Thursday relating to our debt level and in Dublin yesterday relating to Bank of Ireland. Both deals are of course welcome. Our burden is eased, yes, but clearly still remains. The important message of the BOI deal in particular is that it represents investor confidence in our banking system whilst at the same time reducing the burden on our tax payers.
However, now that international investors have shown confidence in our banking system, it is time for our banking system to show confidence in Irish business, particularly in our SME sector. On Sunday I met a gentlemen who employs 80 people down the coast producing a world beating product in the electrical field. He has contracts throughout Europe and could have many more. He has a working capital requirement of €600,000 annually however he can’t even get 5,000 from his Irish Bank. He’s no flash Harry, you won’t see him in the social pages, he was literally a man with a plan some 20 years ago and with a passion for his area that drove him to be an employment creator, that drove him to completely change his business when technology overtook him to ensure that on the next occasion he would overtake technology rather than the other way around. Yet for the want of a functioning banking system that recognises the kind of business he is in-he is now travelling in the slow lane of International Business and unable to create employment.
There are many others. The retail and service industry is haemorrhaging jobs, many of which could be saved for want of bank support. I want to put my hands up and stay straight up that I feel in the last government we didn’t get a handle on this issue however we had begun to prepare the groundwork for a small credit insurance scheme.
I welcome the fact that Minister Bruton has got a similar scheme over the line and that it will be rolled out in September. However it will be by its nature small and unless our banking system realigns itself to support viable smes, it will only be a drop in a large ocean.
With some 460,000 people claiming some form of employment payment on a weekly basis we need to think outside of the box.
The potential of job creation in renewable sector has long been talked about but we now must act.
It is beneficial to recap the potential
• A report on the Irish renewable energy sector by the High-Level Action Group on Green Enterprise estimates that the sector has the potential to create over 50,000 direct jobs by 2020.
• The global market for environmental goods and services is expected to be worth approx €1,500 billion by 2012.
• The value of the Irish market was conservatively estimated at €2.8 billion in 2008.
• Renewable energies accounted for €700 million.
• There are more than 6,500 people directly employed in the green economy in Ireland.
• Ireland has among the best wind energy endowments in Europe.
• Ireland’s ocean territory is 10 times our land mass size.
• The IWEA estimates that potential exists to create up to 16,000 new jobs by 2020.
• Ireland is one of the most favourable locations for wave energy in the world.
• Potential exists to create 1,900 jobs by 2020 in wave technology
• The interface of energy and ICT (e.g. solar technologies, electric vehicles) offers significant opportunities for Ireland.
• Irelands is aiming to generate 40 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2020.
We have huge potential.
How do we harness it?
I would suggest the establishment of An All Island Renewable Energy Company tasked with harvesting that potential and ensuring that job creation. That job creation potential is especially significant given the high level of unemployment amongst young males and former construction workers.
Targeted training programmes can be put in place to ensure this cohort receives the benefit.
This all island company should be ambitious and should seek to push the boat out in terms of challenging current policy positions.
- For instance should we adapt an All Island Planning Policy in relation to renewable projects rather than have sets of differing rules depending on the local authority?
- Should we examine the possibility of a common tax rate in relation to renewables on both sides of the island?
We have all the assets but unless we move to harness them we will be overtaken by Scotland and the Nordic Companies.
Equally we have huge opportunities in Agriculture-tomorrow mornings sessions will guide that discussion.
Finally there is the whole question of our education system and its role in preparing people to access employment opportunities.
We have just passed a very significant point in re-imagining our education system, the first examinations under the Project Maths initiative at Junior Cert. We have a serious problem with maths education at leaving certificate in this country. Without maths education we will not be able to provide the engineers, the high tech specialists, the pharmaceutical experts etc that are going to lead us out of our current impasse. Project Maths is crucial in demystifying Honours Maths at Leaving Cert level. It is in all our interests for it to succeed.
The recent comments by Minister Ruairi Quinn about his determination to focus on the basic skills of Writing and Arithmetic are personally very welcome.
I wonder what Patrick MacGill would have made of text speech!
In conclusion, there are many other area where we can create jobs. Tourism & Services, Education, Medicine, etc. We may need to re-imagine a lot of things though. There can be no sacred cows in the Ireland of 2011.