SMEs in Westmeath the 'lifeblood of the economy' - Donohoe

(Above) Minister Donohoe addressing the webinar earlier.

Small and medium sized businesses in Westmeath and rest of the country are the "lifeblood of the economy", according to the Minister for Finance.

Speaking at a pre-budget webinar organised by Mullingar and Athlone chambers this morning, Minister Paschal Donohoe said that the SME sector is vital to the economic well being of the country.

"I know the viewers on this call today make every bit as important a contribution to the growth of our country and the protection of our society as some of the larger employers and companies..."

In addition to preparing for next Tuesday's Budget, the minister is also involved in discussions surrounding changes to Ireland's corporate tax rate of 12.5% to bring it in line with OECD proposals.

He said that the tax rate is just one "very important factor" when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment to Westmeath and the rest of the country.

Initiatives such as our R&D tax credit system and our highly skilled workforce are also considerations taken into account by foreign firms.

Another important consideration for foreign investors and the wider economy is "stability in the future", he added.

"It is not at times the rate they are going to pay today, but what they are going to pay tomorrow and being absolutely clear on that."

Fiona Murphy, tax partner with the Athlone based chartered accountants RBK, said that while the likely change in the corporate rate to 15% is on businesspeople's minds, they will take comfort when a final decision is announced and they can start planning. She said that it would be "fantastic" if the SME sector could retain the 12.5% rate, which is being reported in the national media this evening.

Major Coup

The president of Mullingar Chamber says that given his busy schedule it was a "major coup" to get the Minister for Finance to participate in this morning's pre-budget webinar.

Minister Donohoe took time away from his preparations for Tuesday's Budget and the ongoing negotiations regarding changes to Ireland's corporate tax rate to participate in the webinar, which was facilitated by Moate native and Sunday Business Post business editor Lorcan Allen. The other participants were RBK's Fiona Murphy, Shane Keating chief data officer with the Ardonagh Group, which sponsored the event, Mullingar Chamber president Mr Geoghegan and his counterpart in Athlone, Alan Shaw.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner after the event, which was viewed by 100 people, Mr Geoghegan thanked the minister for participating in the event during what is his busiest period of the year. He also praised local Ministers of State Peter Burke and Robert Troy for their roles in securing Minister Donohoe's participation.