[Sinn Fein]

31st March 2003

Small Businesses need local institutions

Former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, Mid Ulster Sinn Fein MLA Francie Molloy speaking at the launch of the Federation of Small Business' Assembly election manifesto has said that local institutions are vital to small business.

Mr Molloy said:

``This is the first manifesto launch of the Assembly election. It is a welcome opportunity to hear directly the voice of small businesses. It also gives the clearest indication of the importance of the local institutions. Small businesses need the local institutions to be up and running.

``Small businesses here in the north of Ireland provide 75% of our employment so their importance to our economy cannot be underestimated. Yet they are facing increasingly difficult obstacles to their long-term viability.

``The spiralling burden of insurance costs needs to be challenged head on and treated as a matter of urgency. There is also the approach to the ending of industrial de-rating that Sinn Fein has questioned. We need to look at how we can use the phasing out of industrial de-rating to effectively continue to support our small and medium sized businesses - particularly as we have to tackle the barriers to competitiveness that they face. We need to see effective incentives that encourage and sustain the growth of small businesses, particularly given the importance of the indigenous business within the context of the unstable global climate.

``The debate between small businesses and policy makers must become a two way process and I particularly welcome the FSB initiatives on a rate payers forum given the likely damage that unsustainable rates increases and water charges - the so-called Durkan taxes - are likely to have on our economy in the coming years.

``There is also a shared concern around the issue of procurement and the maintenance of select lists which in many cases mitigate against our local businesses getting a fair deal. There must be a real examination of the use of select lists and the possibility of supporting greater co-operation of small local companies to win big contracts.''

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