THE Cork Chamber quarterly economic trends survey has been undertaken since 2009, and thankfully shows a much brightened and positive outlook nowadays.
We are in an unprecedented phase of growth with new planning permissions being granted across the city, and the vision for the docklands starting to take shape.
Of course, challenges and opportunities go hand in hand.
The Cork Chamber Economic Trends Survey is a connection point with our members gathering metrics across a range of topics to assess business confidence, perspectives on the operating landscape, national economy, the threats to business growth, and on this occasion as part of the quarter 2 survey, we asked questions about Budget 2020.
The Quarter 2 results are very encouraging showing an increase in the percentage of businesses experiencing growth in turnover and net profits in Q2, at 63% and 73% respectively. We also report very positive growth in employee numbers for 50% of responding businesses, though 43% reported difficulties in recruiting for open vacancies, especially across engineering disciplines. This has been a recurring trend in recent years and highlights the persistent skills shortage in this area.
Not surprising in the context of the wider business operating environment, there has been a decrease in business confidence to 88%, compared with 96% in quarter 1 of this year. While we see a growing number of cranes freckle the Cork City skyline, with serious headway being made in turning plans into reality, there are also persistent concerns. Ongoing Brexit uncertainties and the frustrations around housing and accommodation supply both feature as the top-ranking threats to business growth. The business community needs certainty for planning, decision making and investment, and we need an accelerated pace of activity and a policy framework to support this certainty.
In the Q2 survey, we asked members about Budget 2020, 52% of responding businesses added their support for a prioritisation of funding for public and sustainable transport, 23% gave support for tax incentives for electric cars, with 12% prioritising support for carbon tax.
Currently, Ireland is consistently missing national and international carbon emission reduction targets with GHG’s nearly three million tonnes outside the pathway identified to meet 2020 targets. Even from a purely economic perspective, the cost of inaction is far off balance with the benefits of action considering the financial penalties payable of up to €150million yearly. Ireland is missing out on opportunities to shift to a clean energy and tech society, and the benefits that this will bring to our wider economy, society and environment.
We recently made a submission as part of the public consultation on the Use of Carbon Tax Revenues. In this, we called for certainty, requesting that the final approach adopted for the application of a Carbon Tax increase clearly state the long-term pathway, providing clear timelines and detail on the application of this tax increase to 2030. Without a doubt, if we are to meet new energy demands, measures such as retrofitting homes, investing in the grid and generating renewable energy will be essential for Ireland’s sustainable future. We need a strong policy framework and supports, and the removal of barriers to this transition.
We called for this tax increase to be applied in a way that is fair and equitable for business and communities to make this transition, and in a way that negates fuel poverty and social inequity. Cork Chamber added support for the ring-fencing of existing and future revenues from the Carbon Tax to aid a fair transition for all to a low carbon economy. Due to the scale, challenges as well as opportunities, the ring-fencing of funds should be used to accelerate this transition, with the tax revenue clearly directed to support policy interventions and to increase the affordability of alternatives.
Pursuing the call for public and sustainable transport investment, we made a submission to the recent public consultation on the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS). In this, we called for immediate investment in additional infrastructure and services while also identifying opportunities to rethink the use of our existing infrastructure to improve the attractiveness of using sustainable transport modes throughout metropolitan Cork at a relatively low cost. Among the 11 quick wins, we highlighted the opportunity to initiate designated bus corridors throughout Metropolitan Cork to improve bus reliability, priority to be given to the delivery of new park & rides while maintaining BlackAsh, the extension of the rail commuter zone to include Mallow and improving rail frequencies, the pedestrianisation of the Marina for walking and cycling, the identification of quiet way cycling routes and the protection of existing cycle infrastructure to enhance safety.
Finally, when asked about where the emphasis of Budget 2020 should sit, 40% of responding businesses indicated increased spending for public services/ public investments, followed by measures to improve business confidence at 31% and with the majority of the remaining sentiment indicating the continued need for investment in housing.
Keep up to date on the Cork Chamber Quarterly Economic Trends, as well as our submissions to public consultations via the Cork Chamber website.