Saturday 25 February 2017

Economic crisis our worst fiasco, says former NTMA chief

Aine Kerr and Fiach Kelly

THE former head of the agency in charge of managing Ireland's debt has described the current economic crisis as the "worst fiasco" he had ever seen.

Dr Michael Somers, who was chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), gave a lengthy presentation to the Fine Gael parliamentary party on the economic and banking crisis.

He refused to do media interviews last night on the content of his private presentation at the Fine Gael think-in in Waterford.

But deputy leader James Reilly said Mr Somers told the party the economic mess was the "worst fiasco" he had ever seen.

The former NTMA chief also expressed concerns about the Government's new plans for Anglo Irish Bank, because there were now effectively two state agencies winding down properties and toxic loans at very substantial cost to the taxpayer.

At the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) alone, there are some 380 people working on the transfer of assets at a cost of €140m, Mr Somers was reported to have told Fine Gael TDs and senators.

Skill

The new Anglo Irish Bank split will bring another layer of costs for the taxpayer.

"And he said to us that people say we blew the boom and we kind of did," Dr Reilly said.

The Fine Gael frontbench spokesman said Mr Somers, an AIB board member, had warned that "we may have lost the skill to run the country".

"And I think that relates to our current Government. Now he (Mr Somers) didn't say that, but that's obviously the inference," Dr Reilly said.

"To put your own interpretation on it, what he's clearly saying is that this is a disaster and the worst disaster he has seen," Dr Reilly said.

The presentation by Mr Somers, who stepped down from the NTMA last December, contained "serious and worrying" messages.

Other TDs said he had outlined how difficult it would be for Ireland to regain the confidence of bond markets and reiterated his concerns over NAMA and its failure to reopen lines of credit for businesses and households.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said Mr Somers had highlighted the "confused thinking" on NAMA and Anglo Irish Bank.

The former NTMA chief has previously claimed he did "a lot of hard swallowing" about Nama.

"It sort of sticks in my gullet to hand all this money over," he said in May.

Irish Independent

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