Coveney admits Nama will fail to recover €40bn
Growing concerns agency is putting bottom line before the creation of much-needed jobs
A FINE Gael cabinet minister has said that Nama will "have done a good job" even if it only manages to recover the €31.8bn it paid to the banks for the €71.2bn they lent to developers during the boom.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney's startling concession that as much as €40bn of taxpayers' money will never be recovered represents a sea change in the Government's official attitude to developers.
"If they do that (recover €31.8bn), then they've done a good job," Mr Coveney said when asked by the Sunday Independent for his views on Nama chairman Frank Daly's statement to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce that his agency's objective was to recover at a minimum what had been paid to the banks (€31.8bn) for their development loans.
Mr Daly said that the "burden" of recovering the €31.8bn Nama had paid the banks for these loans was "a massive and onerous one".
While Mr Coveney might accept that Nama will fail to recover as much as €40bn of taxpayers' money from the developers on its books, there is growing disquiet within the Government in relation to the agency.
The revelation in this newspaper last Sunday that broadcasting giant Sky was on the brink of withdrawing its offer to bring 800 jobs to Dublin in favour of the UK after being met with a demand from Nama to lease more office space than it actually needed has been met with outrage by government politicians.
Sky only reversed its decision following a last-minute intervention by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton through the IDA which saw Nama agree to a compromise.
The 'near miss' has provoked serious concern within Government that the creation of much-needed employment is being put in jeopardy by Nama's seeming determination to protect its own bottom line to the exclusion of everything else.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton reflected that concern yesterday, saying: "It (Nama) should reorient its culture to ensure it ties in with the realisation that the creation of jobs is a national priority. Nama ought to have a clause within its terms maximising jobs consciousness and the creation of employment. I would personally support that. All departments have to be conscious that the central objective and policy of the Government is to get people back into employment."
Asked for his views on the near miss experienced by the Government in relation to the 800 Sky jobs, minister of state Michael Ring said: "The way Nama is operating currently is costing jobs in the real economy. I want transparency. I don't want to get involved in debts or property. It is the jobs I'm concerned about."
In a clear rebuke to the agency's officials, Mr Ring slammed those "in safe bureaucratic posts who are carrying on with no regard for the functioning of the local economy''.
Nama, he said "is going to have to join the real world".
Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, claimed that ''Nama bureaucracy is costing us jobs''. He added: "There are a lot of worthwhile people in Nama but its mindset has to get more commercial. It has to move to the pace of the real world far more speedily."