Chambers Ireland Statement on Current Challenges for SMEs

Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Enterprise Trade and Employment Committee this morning (1/3/2023) Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot, said: “Businesses are fit for growth, but they are constrained by the lack of talent, the lack of housing, the lack of infrastructure. The greatest challenge that our members face is the lack of available talent which is driven by affordable and appropriate housing being unavailable across most of the country.

“We are growing as an economy, but we are not growing at the pace we could grow. Our domestic market has been constrained by this lack of housing.

“We know that the Irish units of multinationals are often not competitive for further internal investments because they cannot meet their existing employment targets never mind expand their workforce.

“Up and down the country our members are telling us that businesses are busy, but they are leaving opportunities on the table because they do not have the capacity to take on more work. This is a good kind of challenge, but it remains a challenge, because if a business is to be sustainable over the longer term it needs to grow, and to invest, both in its capital and in its people.

“Our members are increasingly worried about the capacity of the state, and the wider economy, to deliver on the aims of the National Development Plan, Housing for All, and our Climate Action Plan.

“Business owner-operators can have confidence in themselves, they can have confidence in their business model, they can have confidence in their staff, but it is increasingly difficult for them to have confidence in the economic environment which they are trying to operate their business within. Our planning system is failing our business community, and our wider society.

“Planning has become an issue for businesses because it is an issue which the businesses cannot directly address. We need politicians and officials to deliver on them, for everyone.

“If there is one overriding thing that is needed for confidence to be restored, it is the fixing of the planning system. The planning authorities and courts needs to be staffed, and staffed by people with expertise, not generalists. They need people with the technical capacity to make decisions that can withstand scrutiny. It is extremely hard for businesses to plan, when the State is bad at planning.”