Almost 9 in 10 Irish SMEs (88%) feel the government should be providing them with more support. This is according to the latest SME Ireland Confidence Tracker published by Bibby Financial Services Ireland.
The SME Confidence Tracker is a national survey of over 200 small and medium sized enterprises across the Republic of Ireland.
Irish SMEs believe that this support should come in the form of tax breaks (81%), a lower VAT rate (78%), additional funding (58%), subsidised staff training (55%) and assistance in growing their company (55%).
The survey finds that small to medium enterprises in Ireland have returned to investing in their businesses, with 81% of those surveyed saying they have done so in the third quarter of 2018. The key areas for investment are staff training and development (45%), IT (39%), recruitment (39%) and machinery and equipment (25%).
Eighty percent of SMEs plan to invest in their business over the next three months; in addition to staff training and development (43%), IT (33%) and recruitment (31%). Significant areas for investment are new products or services (23%) and overseas trade (14%).
The report finds that confidence in the Irish economy among SMEs remains a concern however, with more than a third (36%) claiming that uncertainty around the country’s economic environment is preventing them from investing in their business before the end of 2018.
Uncertainty arising from the UK’s departure from the EU is also cause for unease with Irish SMEs; a further 36% say it is a key factor preventing them from investing in their business in the third quarter. Other barriers to investment include cash flow (36%), rising costs (36%) and the uncertain economic environment within Europe (23%).
More than half of Irish SMEs are planning to take steps in advance of Brexit (56%), with 38% saying they are exploring new markets, 26% are working to diversify their business and a further 24% are getting cash flow in order. Twenty nine percent of Irish SMEs are however not planning on taking any steps in advance of the March 2019 Brexit deadline.
Commenting on the report, Managing Director at Bibby Financial Services Ireland, Mark O’Rourke said, "One factor that is very clear from this research, is that Irish SMEs are feeling exposed and would like more support from the government. As we approach the end of 2018, we are facing into a number of unknowns economically, namely the UK’s exit from the EU, cash flow issues that SMEs are still facing, the rising costs of running a business in Ireland and other political factors from Europe."
He added, "The government currently has a number of initiatives in place to help SMEs in advance of Brexit including the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland’s Brexit Loan Scheme. The many Irish SMEs facing challenges with funding are perhaps not fully aware of the broad range of funding options available even though many funding solutions, including invoice financing, are far more suited to their needs than traditional lending options. As financiers, we need to ensure that Irish SMEs understand the options available to them."