The Bottom Line Tuesday April 16 2013

Every now and again as I’m presenting the Bottom Line, I hear an economic statistic that takes my breath away.  Like the time a few months ago when I was speaking to Patricia Callan of the Small Firms Association.  We were discussing late payments of invoices and how this practice put small business under severe pressure, indeed caused many to go to the wall.

Patricia said that the Government was making progress in improving the payment of bills by State organisations but there were some where progress was not acceptable and where the State was paying millions needlessly.
The figure she mentioned incurred by the HSE on an annual basis was €300 million.  THREE HUNDRED MILLION !!!!!!!!  I couldn’t believe it.  In a country which is effectively in receivership to be squandering that amount as a result of tardy administration is unforgiveable.  This was subsequently confirmed to me by listeners who run businesses which deal with the HSE.  One person who contacted me said it was taking an AVERAGE of 72 days to get paid !!!!

I had a similar experience with a gobsmacking economic stat this week on the show.  Except the figure being lost to the State is bigger which we’re trying to recover with austerity is far bigger.  Far, far, bigger.   I was talking to Mark Fielding of ISME who was telling us about a presentation which his organisation has just made to the Joint Oireachteas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Employment. The subject on the top of Mark’s agenda is the Black Economy.  ISME reckon that 16% of the economy is in the “black” and that the loss to the Exchequer is in the order of €5 BILLION PER ANNUM.  We’d make a fair dent in our national debt if some of that money was recovered by the State.

Mark reckons that a complete sea change in attitude is necessary for every aspect of Irish society and he referenced some other areas of Irish life where previously unimaginable attitudinal change was achieved by determined Government action. Think: the Smoking Ban in public places; Insurance Fraud; the Plastic Bag levy; drinking and driving. Mark says it could take a generation to cure Ireland’s love affair with the black economy. But it would be worth the effort.

ISME have put forward some common sense and easily implementable ways of diminishing the black economy.  Check them out at the ISME website.

It was good to talk to Kerry Footballing legend Pat Spillane on the Show.  While known as one of Gaelic Footballs towering figures and latterly as a TV and radio sports pundit who in rarely pulling punches can always be relied on for a colourful metaphor or two, Pat has for the last few months been working away largely below the radar as the Chairman of CEDRA.  CEDRA ? I hear you ask.  It’s the a Government established Commission on the Economic Development of Rural Areas.  CEDRA are holding a public meeting in IT Carlow on April 25th at 7:15.  If you have ideas about how rural Ireland (defined for the purposes of this exercise as anywhere that isn’t Dublin; Cork; Galway or Limerick) can be economically developed, get along to the meeting. Pat will welcome you with open arms.

IT was a pleasure to talk to Paul Quilty of KBS Consultancy Ltd who leads the winning entry in the Piltown Community Enterprise Start Up competition.  KBS came out on top after a wide ranging search of the area for job creating ideas. His company will benefit from a great package of prizes given by this forward thinking community organisation.  Well done to all involved.

And finally – what about “Tom’s Take” on it all (that title has just occoured to me as a possible “handle” for the weekly slot where Irish Independent Business Correspondent Tom Molloy joins us on the programme  ….  Well there was really only one big issue to discuss CROKE PARK.  Though it won’t be official until tomorrow it looks to all intents and purposes that Croke Park II is dead in the water.  We talked about the impact Ireland’s economic situation; the prospect of a Summer of (even more) discontent; the likely impact on consumer confidence; the fall out for Ireland’s international reputation and whether in the light of last Fridays further deal on Irelands bailout terms it is unfortunately a case of 2 steps forward but three steps back ?

As always it’s an interesting time to be in business …..