Saturday 22 July 2017

'Whatever you say, say nothing' -- ECB

ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet answers questions during his monthly news conference at the ECB headquarter in Frankfurt yesterday. Photo: Reuters
ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet answers questions during his monthly news conference at the ECB headquarter in Frankfurt yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Laura Noonan in Frankfurt

IN the media's defence, ECB boss Jean-Claude Trichet brought it up.

Announcing the outcome of the bank's latest interest rate deliberations (no change, yet again), the Frankfurt supremo finished with a few lines "welcoming" Ireland's "adjustment programme" (aka bailout).

And so the ECB's monthly interest conference turned into the Ireland show.

Did the ECB force the Irish Government to take a bailout?

What did the ECB make of Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan's comments that he would have "preferred" an insurance scheme for future bank losses rather than another cash injection? Why wasn't this done?

How does the ECB feel about the Icelandic premier's suggestions that Ireland's banks should have been allowed default on their international obligations while honouring their domestic ones?

Since this worked so well for Iceland, why didn't the ECB give Ireland that choice?

Why did the bailout package fail to do anything to address the chronic liquidity problems at the Irish banks -- ie, their inability to raise funding from other banks -- and could Mr Trichet respond to the market's criticisms in this regard?

How concerned was the ECB about the €100m of its cash propping up the Irish banks and what level of cash was considered "sustainable" by the Frankfurt maestros?

And that's before we even got stuck into bonds.

Was the ECB in the markets buying Irish government debt? Would the ECB buy more government debt once the Irish bailout was sorted, as it did when Greece sealed the deal?

Torrent

Against this torrent, Mr Trichet said nothing, or at least as close to nothing as he could reasonably get away with.

There were chinks of light -- he insisted the ECB had not forced Ireland into a bailout, and he defended various elements of the deal -- but the message was largely clear -- "ask me about anything but Ireland" (or current market movement, but that's another day's work).

All in, Mr Trichet might want to think a bit more carefully about the closing remarks of his speech next time.

Irish Independent

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