Affordable Childcare Scheme is a step in the right direction


Waterford Chamber welcomes today's (30th January 2017) publication of the Heads of Bill on new Affordable Childcare Scheme by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD.


Commenting on the proposed Affordable Childcare Scheme, Nick Donnelly, Waterford Chamber CEO said, “Investment in childcare has a positive impact not only on children and parents but also for the wider society and our economy. The cost of childcare is a significant portion of the cost of living for many parents. This impacts not only families but also businesses which subsequently may struggle to retain staff, particularly female employees who often opt out of the workforce when faced with unmanageable childcare costs.


“We believe that the availability of the new Affordable Childcare Scheme from September 2017 will give more families access to affordable childcare and should therefore have a positive impact on female labour market participation, making it easier for employers, particularly SMEs, to retain valued staff and meet wages demands.


“Access to affordable childcare is a huge factor in the overall competitiveness of the Irish economy. In fact, the European Commission has urged Government to improve access to affordable childcare, highlighting that without this investment Ireland’s future economic growth would be negatively impacted. Retaining our economic competitiveness must be to the fore of Government policy, particularly as we prepare for Brexit. Ireland must reassert its position as a leading international knowledge economy and it cannot do this if parents are pushed out of the workforce due to high childcare costs. The proposed Scheme is not an overall solution but a welcome step in the right direction, a step that is good for children, families, businesses and the wider economy.”

Increased variety of apprenticeships & traineeships a welcome addition to the Irish education landscape


Commenting on today’s (26th January 2017) announcement by Minister for Education Richard Bruton TD and Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan TD, Waterford Chamber President, Laurent Borla said, “We welcome the ambitious targets set out today by Government to increase and expand apprenticeship and traineeship places by 2020 and the allocation of an extra €20 million in funding for delivery this year.


"Increased workplace based learning programmes will play an important role in helping the Irish education system meet the demands and skills needs of a growing economy and an ever evolving jobs market. Practical learning and orientation with elements of on-the-job placements ensure that graduates are workplace-ready, benefitting both businesses and job-seekers. The diversity of options being made available under the Plan announced today will be vital in the Department’s goal of making the Irish education system the best in Europe within a decade.


"Workplace and skills based learning must play a greater role in Ireland’s education system going forward and the increase in apprenticeships and traineeships is much needed. The challenge now will be to encourage uptake and promote the varied opportunities that apprenticeships and traineeships can offer to students and businesses; for too long they have been associated with a limited number of trades. SMEs in many sectors have much to gain from working with SOLAS and engaging in apprenticeship and traineeship programmes and we encourage businesses to get involved."

EIB investment is a welcome support but greater levels of capital investment a priority


The European Investment Bank (EIB) today (24th January 2017) confirmed investment of €825 million in Ireland in 2016.


Commenting on the announcement, Waterford Chamber President, Laurent Borla said, "We welcome the significant level of investment in Ireland in 2016 and the ongoing support the EIB provides for crucial long-term infrastructure projects across the country. Ireland requires significant capital investment in the coming years in order to develop the infrastructure our economy so badly needs to ensure continued and sustainable long-term growth. The European Investment Bank’s continued financial support for these projects is a reaffirmation of the enormous value of our membership of the European Union.


"This €825 million is an important contribution which will help to deliver key infrastructure projects but Government must also prioritise further investment, of even greater levels, to meet the demands of our growing economy. If we are to continue to grow our economy in the years ahead, especially if we aspire to attract additional foreign direct investment from multi-nationals who may wish to leave the UK following their EU exit, we must also ensure that our infrastructure can meet the additional demands this growth will create."

Rural communities must be supported to achieve their full potential


rural ireland action planWaterford Chamber welcomes the Action Plan for Rural Development launched today (23rd January 2017) by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD.


Commenting on the Action Plan, Nick Donnelly, Chamber CEO said, “We very much welcome the ‘Realising our Rural Potential’ plan which is an important indication of Government commitment to supporting rural communities and the rural economy across Ireland. This Action Plan is a key component of a series of strategic initiatives such as the roll out of the National Broadband Plan and the development of a National Planning Framework that, when delivered, will allow rural businesses to grow and develop within their communities.


“The long term strategy for rural Ireland must be to support our regions and rural communities in achieving their full potential in terms of economic development. Initiatives such as the South East Regional Action Plan for Jobs and the development of an Atlantic Economic Corridor have the potential to prove transformational for the economic development of the regions, but they will require a sustained focus from policy makers and significant capital investment over the coming years if they are to prove effective. Vibrant rural communities within strong regions will ensure the long term sustainability of rural life in Ireland.”   

Theresa May's Brexit speech: More Questions Than Answers


Commenting on UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech today (17/01/2017), Nick Donnelly, Waterford Chamber CEO said, "Ultimately the speech was no more than an articulation of the UK’s top-line negotiating position.


"Businesses in Ireland are no further advanced in understanding the issues that will need to be dealt with at the conclusion of this process but can take some solace in matters which the UK specified as being key elements in the negotiations. The reference to the special relationship with the Republic of Ireland and the importance of retaining the Common Travel Area is welcome although more clarity on barrier-free arrangements with Northern Ireland remains critical for businesses on both sides of the border.


"The acknowledgement of the desire to take in “elements of the Single Market” and a “new agreement on Customs Union” is positive for Irish exporters but will clearly be very contentious parts of the forthcoming negotiations and mutually beneficial solutions will need to be identified.


"Timing of any changes remains very unclear. The Prime Minister’s acknowledgement of the need for reasonable transition periods is positive. However the process for approval of any negotiated agreement by the remaining EU States and the UK Parliament, where both Houses will be given a vote, will generate continued uncertainty and potentially the risk of a Brexit with no deal in place.


"In addition the expressed desire to conduct negotiations with a high level of privacy will only contribute to continued uncertainty and volatility. While we understand the need for a degree of confidentiality to facilitate negotiators in identifying an agreement, a process to create some level of transparency to enable businesses to plan for possible future scenarios must be put in place.


It is vitally important that the Irish Government and all relevant stakeholders ensure that Ireland’s interests are properly represented in the forthcoming negotiations, that the desire for reasonable transition periods forms part of any agreement and that all States negotiate and reach agreement based on economically rational principles."

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