Government Action Plans

03 February 2017

Government Action Plans

Last week saw the launch of the Action Plan for Rural Ireland and this week we have the Action Plan for Jobs 2017. Both, are promised and ongoing initiatives reflecting the ‘keep the recovery going’ mantra of Fine Gael during the election, but both give more than a nod towards Brexit and how we can minimise the possible damage by being in as good a shape as possible ourselves.

Rural Ireland

This action plan recognises that rural Ireland has been left behind in terms of recovery and is designed “to resurrect and get rural Ireland going again”. We have already had the appointment of a rural development minister, Heather Humphreys and the promise that 135,000 of the promised 200,000 jobs by 2020 will be outside Dublin.  But much more is needed and this is what the latest plan hopes to address.

Its main targets involve:

  • Delivering 135,000 new jobs by 2020, by creating new opportunities in Agri-food, Marine, Financial Services and other new industries, while assisting jobseekers to develop the skills necessary to meet the needs of industry
  • Increasing overseas visitors by 12% by maximising the potential of our natural resources and our built heritage to support economic development especially Activity Tourism while including Gaeltacht areas
  • Investing €50+ million in sports, recreation and cultural facilities
  • Revitalising 600+ towns and villages by implementing initiatives such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and empowering local rural communities.  There will also be strategies to improve access to arts and cultural events and facilities in rural areas and to promote the Irish language
  • Protecting vital local services by maximising rural transport and improving rural infrastructure
  • Ensuring that all homes and businesses are connected to broadband through the National Broadband plan, enhancing facilities for entrepreneurs and improving social connections
  • Doubling investment in flood relief works by 2021
  • Supporting 4,000 new community projects

The plan also includes increasing IDA visits to the regions in order to increase Foreign Direct Investment to rural areas by up to 40%.  Up to September last year 46% of all IDA visits were in the Greater Dublin Area and counties like Leitrim, Monaghan and Roscommon felt completely ignored.

The development of an Atlantic Economic Corridor will drive jobs and investment along the western seaboard as a counter balance to the east coast.

Gaeltacht areas will be particularly targeted and it is hoped to have ‘innovation hubs’ in the Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry Gaeltacht regions to support entrepreneurship.

The plan is also about bringing people back to live in rural areas which will also benefit the cities by reducing pressure on housing, transport etc.

Schemes such as the Buy and Renewal Initiative, and the Repair and Leasing Initiative, enables councils to make more housing available and renovation grants will help attract house buyers to rural areas.

The plan will run for 3 years but will be updated and added to every 6 months.

Action Plan for Jobs 2017

This year’s plan, published this week is the 6th annual Action Plan for Jobs and promises 45,000 jobs by the end of the year.  It is a whole of government plan involving all departments, and a whole of Ireland plan developing indigenous industry to create and sustain jobs all over Ireland and particularly in the rural regions.

Pointing out that the Action Plans are a model which works the Taoiseach said at the launch that 93% of the actions proposed in last year’s plan were implemented, and an extra 190,000 more people are in work since the first Action Plan in 2012.

This year the major issue is Brexit and 20 of the 164 the actions proposed in the latest plan are a direct response to the changes Brexit may cause in Ireland. These include:

Increased development in tourism, more trade promotions and 48 new staff in Enterprise Ireland and the IDA at a cost of €3m.

The main priority in the face of the present global uncertainty is to build a strong economy, attract more investment and enable the creation of 200,000 jobs by 2020. The emphasis has to be on resilience and sustainability.

Other elements are the support of enterprises which are most dependent on UK markets, a trade strategy to embed exports in the UK, the growing of markets in Europe and North America and the seeking out of new markets.

Aside from the measures to counteract Brexit the plan contains actions on:

  • An Export Finance Initiative, working with the Department of Finance/SBCI to roll out new support to export orientated SMEs, with a pilot in 2017
  • Innovation 2020 – targets include €600 million in new RDI investment by FDI enterprises. Enterprise Ireland to support 100 significant RDI projects and support for 850 enterprise-led collaborative projects
  • Workplace Innovation, with a toolkit to be launched for employers and employees to engage in workplace innovation and a pilot programme roll-out
  • Retail Support Programme with training developed to support retailers to scale up their online trading activity and expand into international markets
  • Launch of a Design4Growth initiative in regions
  • Launch of a competitive ‘Start Fund’ for female entrepreneurs
  • Development of a whole of Government approach to realise opportunities in the digital economy across all sectors, including a stakeholder summit in Q1
  • A combination of measures to support senior entrepreneurship, get women back to work and for long term unemployed
  • A ‘Think Small First’ SME test for new regulations to reduce red tape.

So while the short and medium term aims to balance development throughout the country and continue to create sustainable employment in these challenging times, are laid out in the Action Plan for Rural Ireland and the Action Plan for Jobs 2017, a public consultation process has been launched with a view to creating a longer term plan, Ireland 2040.

This will have to continue to channel growth around the country and away from Dublin as Ireland accommodates an expected rise in population of half a million over the next 25 years.

But it is also about identifying priorities and trying to plan for infrastructure and facilities where they will be needed. Draft plans will be produced after the public consultation process and a final plan will be put to the Dáil before the end of the year.

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