Rabbitte confirms €2bn asset sales
The Government will have to raise more than €2bn through the sale of state assets under the EU-IMF rescue deal, Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pat Rabbitte has confirmed.
The figure laid down in the Programme for Government is €2bn, but the EU and the IMF have been pressuring Ireland to raise up to €5bn through the sale of stakes in semi-states or state-sponsored bodies such as the ESB, Aer Lingus and An Coillte. "In the latest version of the memorandum of understanding the commitment is to an ambitious programme of disposal," Mr Rabbitte told reporters in Brussels yesterday.
"I don't think ambitious means €5bn, but I agree it doesn't mean €2bn either."
A troika of European Commission, ECB and IMF officials is in Dublin this week to pore over government accounts and check they are in line with targets set under last November's bailout deal.
Mr Rabbitte said the Government would "be the wiser at the end of this engagement as to what they are insisting on".
The only agreement between the two sides so far is to sell a minority stake in the ESB, which Mr Rabbitte said would not be offered up in the current market.
"The reason we want to maintain state control of the ESB is because we think that's in the strategic best interest of the country and consumers," he said.
Mr Rabbitte ruled out selling Dublin Port for similar reasons and added that he hoped Ireland's creditors would be more flexible on how the proceeds from agreed sales could be used.
The EU has insisted that any money raised should be ploughed back into the budget deficit, but Mr Rabbitte said he hoped the proceeds might part-fund investment in jobs.
"We would like to think that because we have complied with all of the strictures on us there would be some agreement to facilitate Ireland in reinvesting some of the proceeds," he said.
Meanwhile, he said that the Government should not go beyond the €3.6bn in budget cuts agreed for 2012.
"I'm not a proponent of the big bang theory -- I think the €20bn taken out of the economy in the last three, four budgets is very, very severe," he said.
"My own view is that it would be wrong to impede the capacity of the economy to grow and taking out €3.6bn is difficult."