Irish Budget 2017 – A Digitised Economy
(This Week) Ireland’s Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, has presented the first budget of the new Government’s term, laying out a series of taxation and expenditure measures reflective of both the recovering Irish economy and the desire to remain competitive in the face of uncertainty created through Brexit, developments in the international tax code and the US presidential election. We at Cisco Ireland are pleased to see continued support from the Government for the technology sector within Budget 2017, however, there continues to be a need to build on that foundation and to ensure Ireland’s growth as a leading digital nation.
Ireland’s path to a smarter digital economy is well underway, however, we cannot be complacent about where we are and how we have arrived here. A flourishing digital economy is based on the talent and creativity of people and driven by the smart collection and use of data. These must continue to be key focuses if Ireland is to sustain and maximise growth.
Three areas I think Ireland will derive real benefit from in the future are continued investment in education, innovation and infrastructure. Education and skills will, as ever, prove vital to the strength of our sector and the economy. 16% of total spending for Budget 2017 has being allocated to Education, with a promise of the creation of 2,500 new teaching posts and €36.5m in funding for higher education.
Figures in this year’s Higher Education Central Applications Office’s (CAO) offers, highlighted the encouraging demand for STEM courses. While computer science courses have seen a drop in points at some colleges, a general increase is seen in the points required for engineering and other STEM subjects. While the investment in Education is to be broadly welcomed, collectively we must commit to ensure that the right people are populating these courses and their eventual degrees are well suited to meet the demands of industry.
A career in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is not just for young graduates. People who are currently unemployed and those coming to IT at a later stage must also be supported. Further education initiatives, such as the development of ICT training programs by Fast-track to IT (FIT), which encourage this process are essential to support the growing needs of the technology sector and our wider economy. While the continued reduction in unemployment is welcome not all jobs can be maintained in the long term. It’s important that the Government support and recognise the need for people at all levels to build careers and sustainable work through a process of industry relevant educational development.
Last year’s budget saw the introduction of the Knowledge Development Box, to provide an attractive tax rate for income generated from commercialising R&D activities and intellectual property. However, spending on R&D is currently below target in Ireland. This spending is crucial for competitiveness and making Ireland an attractive place to invest. Industry has shown that where Government encourages innovation, that commitment is more than matched by industry. Given that Ireland is a small open economy, it is essential that we remain an attractive place to conduct R&D as well as facilitating the emergence of indigenous firms and encouraging innovation in key sectors.
Budget 2017 saw the Irish Government increase its investment in the development of infrastructure that will lead to greater connectivity for citizens. The benefit of strong road, rail, energy, and broadband communication infrastructure to companies like Cisco is immense. €15m has beallocated to progress the National Broadband Plan to provide high-speed internet, a vital amenity for business across Ireland, in particular in rural regions. Like other companies in Ireland, we have several offices in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. Interconnectivity drives efficiency and cross-collaboration in our business. By supporting this connectivity with continued investment, Ireland and its people will remain incredibly attractive to business well in to the future.
The annual budget is a key milestone in the fiscal year, however, it also provided an opportunity for reflection about what we need to prioritise and how we will go about doing so. Let’s build on that foundation to ensure Ireland remains a global technology hub of choice and that it is allocated the necessary resources to drive the sector forward.