Speaking ahead of today’s first meeting of the of the new cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Louise O’Reilly said that delivering a fair and sustainable economic recovery for workers and SMEs must be top of their agenda.
Teachta O’Reilly said: “Workers and many small and medium-sized enterprises have faced and continue to face unprecedented challenges as a result of Covid-19, and the extraordinary public health measures undertaken to protect people from the virus.
“Certain sectors have been more vulnerable to the impact of Covid-19 such as the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors.
“As a result, firms in these sectors have faced substantial cashflow problems, the resolution of which will determine their capacity to withstand the current crisis and operate successfully as they reopen.
“Liquidity supports and access to credit lines are essential in assisting SMEs in the coming months.
“In the weeks and months since Covid-19 brought society and the economy to a standstill, there have been attempts by the caretaker government to provide these liquidity supports and credit lines.
“Unfortunately, these supports have proven to be generally inaccessible and ineffectual to SMEs and their needs; a new approach is clearly needed.
“It is incredibly important that credit and working capital is made available to SMEs, but it is equally important that it is accessible.
“While a significant amount of money has been made available, the application of commercial level interest rates to government loans has made many of the loan schemes unattractive to SMEs.
“Furthermore, there are significant issues surrounding banks using the same risk assessment for loans as if government weren’t guaranteeing loans, thus leaving thousands of SMEs unable to access loans or credit.
“These and many other issues surrounding the working of the different government schemes have been pointed out by both Sinn Féin and SMEs and their representative groups.
“The longer they go unaddressed, the more it looks as if government policy is to say they are providing funding for SMEs but make it virtually inaccessible.
“Rectifying the issues with such schemes, streamlining access to working capital, and delivering a fair and sustainable economic recovery for workers and SMEs must therefore be top of the agenda for the cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment.”