Open to business

Open to business

Liam Lynch, Partner in KPMG and President of Chartered Accountants Ireland, warns of a need to continue supporting indigenous private enterprise across the board.

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Private enterprise is the life blood of our economy and our society. The jobs and tax that it generates makes everything else possible. The economy underpins society and private enterprise drives the economy.

Private enterprise supports the economy and society, and therefore it in turn deserves support, and recognition for the role it plays. On the other hand it is up to business people to explain and champion this role, because to do otherwise leaves the field open to the naysayers, the cynics and the downright hostile.

In my role as President of Chartered Accountants Ireland I represent nearly twenty five thousand members, spread over the entire island of Ireland and around the world. Over 60% of our members work in industry roles, with about 30% working in or owning accountancy firms. Many of our members are themselves entrepreneurs, using the training they received as Chartered Accountants to succeed in many different facets of business and managerial life.

Given that background, I have started my year as President with a few things I want to say and do, because I think they are important and are worth saying. In particular I want to see Chartered Accountants Ireland to speak up for private enterprise, and to resolutely support the people who really make things happen in business and for society, the people who create the jobs and generate the tax collections.

Of course, as so often happens to the best laid plans of men (and mice), events intervene and drown out almost every other narrative. In this instance, Brexit happened - or, more accurately, a Brexit was instigated. How exactly it will happen remains to be seen.

The temptation now is that we get so wound up in this new, and compelling, Brexit narrative is that we forget to focus on all those other things we talked about previously. Things like real societal and governmental support for private enterprise. Sure, they will be impacted by Brexit, but they also remain important matters in themselves.

Here in the Republic there is a danger that we become so focused on the inward investment opportunities afforded by the imminent exit of the UK from the EU, that we do not focus sufficiently on indigenous Irish business and encouraging Irish entrepreneurs. In Northern Ireland, the focus could easily become an obsession with how EU funds can be replaced by central UK funding, rather than on transforming the basis of the economy away from government dependency.

The route towards a strong, sustainable economy that provides the best opportunity for all our citizens is a strong indigenous business sector that trades with the rest of the EU and the world. Britain will remain the biggest trading partner for the entire island simply because it is a huge market and it is right beside us. Proximity to market does matter and will not be easily replaced by far flung locations, either within the EU or outside. It is therefore vitally important for the entire island that we retain full access to that market.

But it is also vital that private enterprise is encouraged so we have nimble indigenous businesses capable of competing in the global marketplace. This means real encouragement from Government, and not just lip service. It means real support in terms of effective regulation that is workable and encourages trade, a decent tax regime for growing businesses and entrepreneurs, and the implementation of legislation that is on time and supportive.

It means real respect for private enterprise by Government at all levels. But it also means strong positive voices speaking up for private enterprise, both within and outside of Government.

One way or another, we are currently facing new political, business and trading realities. It has been a long year, and the autumn has barely begun. But the world doesn't end - it continues to revolve and we are cursed or blessed (take your pick) to live in interesting times.

The great ability of private enterprise is to nimbly embrace interesting times and prosper, for the benefit of society at large. I believe it is the job of Government to embrace this nimbleness, embrace the indigenous entrepreneur and be open to business.

Liam Lynch, President Chartered Accountants Ireland

This article was originally published in InBusiness in Q3 2016 and is reproduced here with their kind permission.

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