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Wednesday 20 August 2014

Exiting bailout without lifeline is risky business

Ailish O'Hora

Published 14/11/2013 | 12:28

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD
Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD

As billionaire investor Warren Buffett once said: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.”

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So let’s hope the historic decision announced today by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to leave the bailout on December15 without a precautionary credit line will prove to be have been the right one.

But it’s hard not to feel the strong-arm of Europe and the German Government resting on the decision.

Europe needs a shining example of an exit from a bailout programme so the question remains is Ireland the guinea pig?

It’s true our bond yields are at historically low levels and there have been tentative signs of recovery in the economy but what if other problem arise in Greece, Portugal, Italy or Spain?

While there has been some debate around the bailout exit which is scheduled for December 15 and an expectation that we would do so without an overdraft today’s announcement does seem rushed.

The mantra behind the decision is well rehearsed – we have €20bn in our back pocket, bond yields are in the right place, we’re on schedule to meet our budget deficit target and bailout mechanisms like the ESM are in place in case of an emergency.

But we still don’t know what a so-called backstop would have cost – that would be useful information.

And getting us out of the hole that the previous Government helped to land us in is obviously politically important for the current regime.

Aside from these concerns, there are other considerations that lie mainly outside of Ireland.

Figures released today showed that recovery from recession in the 17-country eurozone continued in the third-quarter of the year - but only just.

The region posted economic growth of 0.1pc during the July to September period compared with the previous three-month period, Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency, said.

And while that was in line with market expectations, it was also below the previous quarter's 0.3pc growth.

Then there’s the upcoming stress tests in the European banks and whatever that throws up.

While the clean break is to be welcomed, it’s hard not to be a little nervous about going it alone.

It is also notable that while Brussels favoured the go-it-alone move, the European Central Bank said the stop-gap would be useful.

Let’s hope the decision taken today is the right one - the bond markets in time will ultimately determine that in the longer term.

Otherwise when the tide goes out it could be deeply embarrassing.

@ailishohora

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