The chairman of the Small Firms Association will call for an end to what the SFA calls the disparity of treatment between the self-employed and PAYE workers at the SFA's annual conference later this morning.

Ahead of the conference, the SFA has taken a survey of its members which shows that just under three quarters say their businesses are growing and 61% say they plan to hire new staff in the year ahead. The Low Pay Commission and Government proposals for mandatory pensions will also feature on the conference's agenda today.

SFA chairman AJ Noonan says that sentiment appears to be improving across the economy and across the association's members' views. Mr Noonan says is he pretty confident about the future, but added that there are a number of factors which continue to cause some concern for small businesses and which will be addressed at the conference today. Among those issues will be the fair treatment of the self employed. The SFA chairman says he can not understand why a group of people, who have decided to set up their own business, should be discriminated for doing just that. 

Procurement and capital gains tax issues will also feature at today's conference. AJ Noonan states that a 1% increase in government procurement would create 1,500 jobs and yet the Government seems "hell bent" on driving jobs out of Ireland through their procurement policies. He says the whole procurement issue is based on price as opposed to value, adding that he is not aware of any government contract that is not based on price. 

While he says the Low Pay Commission is a good idea, Mr Noonan adds, however, that if you get an instruction from a Minister that the minimum wage is going to rise before any meeting takes place, the commission is hamstrung even before it starts. The SFA chairman also says that the country is losing its competitiveness, pointing out that Ireland moved to 15 from 14 in the world competitiveness rankings after coming back from a position of 23 some years ago. He adds that the country was in 7th position in 2001 and so we have a long way to go to regain that competition level. He says it is important to point out that tax cuts can provide a wage increase without affecting competitiveness. On capital gains tax, which is one of the highest among the OECD nations, Mr Noonan says that the high rate is not letting transactions take place in a normal economy. He says the rates are driving business and investment to the UK.

MORNING BRIEFS - Malin Corporation, the Irish Stock Exchange listed life sciences company, has invested $35m in Melinta Therapeutics a company developing new antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. This is the first transaction by Malin since the initial public offering of its shares through which it raised €330m in March in order to make investments in promising privately-held companies. The rate at which drug resistant infections are emerging and spreading - the hospital superbug MRSA is one of the best known examples - has been identified by the World Health Organisation as "a problem so serious it threatens the achievements of modern medicine". Melinta says the funding from Malin will help it progress its research to the point of making its first submission to US regulators as it begins the long process of seeking approval for a new treatment.

*** Financial Regulator Cyril Roux told the Department of Finance in March he did not have sufficient powers or staff effectively to regulate the insurance sector. Correspondence released to the Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act shows Mr Roux also rebuked the Department of Finance, to which he does not report directly, for requesting he produce a report on issues in the insurance sector.

*** Irish online car parts and accessories retailer Micksgarage has won a gold medal at the European eCommerce Awards. 
Micksgarage, which has a turnover of €11m and employs 48 staff in Dublin, got the award in a category which recognises, according to the awards organisers " the most innovative, groundbreaking, smart, game-changing operations in Europe".

*** Fashion group Inditex, which owns retail brands including Zara, has reported a 28% rise in quarterly profits following strong growth in sales between February and April. Inditex, owned by Europe's richest man Amancio Ortega, reported a profit of €521m on sales of €4.4 billion. It was helped by currency effects which boosted earnings from outside the euro zone when translated back into euros compared to the first quarter of last year.