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Central Bank cheers for austerity – but splashes out on €2.1m on foreign travel

The Central Bank – which last week urged Ireland to stick to its austerity path – splashed out almost €2.1m on business travel in 2012, including on trips to the Caribbean, Asia and South America.

The €2.1m bill, which was about 10 per cent more than what the Central Bank spent on business travel in 2011, included a trip by the outgoing financial regulator, Matthew Elderfield, to sunny Bermuda last June. Elderfield, who will be leaving the Central Bank shortly to take up a job with the Lloyds Banking Group in London, travelled to Bermuda last June to address an insurance summit there.

The Central Bank's travel expenditure last year also included a trip by its governor, Patrick Honohan, to Tokyo in October to attend the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank. Many of the seminars for this annual meeting were held in Hotel Okura, which has a Japanese garden designed by the late and famous Japanese gardener, Sentaro Iwaki.

Mr Honohan also flew into Washington to attend another meeting of the IMF and World Bank, while the governor also took business trips to Chile and Argentina.

At the launch of the Central Bank's annual report last week, Mr Honohan said it was important that Ireland stuck to its austerity programme. "Full implementation of the Government's announced budgetary measures remains essential to preserve market confidence," he said.

The Central Bank is funded through a mixture of self-funding and industry-funding. About half of the Central Bank's regulatory activities are funded by industry.

Asked by this paper if the Central Bank's increase in business travel costs last year was high in the current economic environment, a spokesman said: "Travel commitments and international meetings are not optional for the bank. As a member of the Eurosystem, IMF, the Bank for International Settlements and European Supervisory Committees, such meetings are a requirement in order for the bank to carry out its functions – as they are to other national central banks and supervisory authorities."

Irish Independent