Sunday 19 November 2017

Finance Minister Noonan hails bailout exit as restoration of economic freedom

Colm Kelpie in Brussels.

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has hailed the decision to exit the bailout without a credit line as restoring economic and financial freedom.

Arriving in Brussels for a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers, Mr Noonan said there was now an opportunity to exit the bailout cleanly with a low level of risk.

And he said Ireland was not laying down a precedent that countries exiting bailouts should not apply for an overdraft facility.

"If we revert to our roots, I would remind the people at home that we spent an awful lot of time getting our freedom and getting the authority to run our own affairs and there's not much point in having political freedom if you don't have economic and financial freedom,"Mr Noonan said.

"This restores economic and financial freedom in Ireland.

"Our fullest intention is to build an economy that's strong and modern and based on a sustainability model rather than a boom and bust model. Get our people back to work and get our young emigrants back into the country and provide jobs at home and let everybody contribute to a free and growing Ireland."

Mr Noonan said he had spoken with IMF chief Christine Lagarde this morning as well as European Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn and ECB boss Mario Draghi, each of whom expressed support.

"The deciding factor was the time is now right. You have seen how Europe has developed over the last three years, it can get rocky at times in Europe.

"It's a very good time now. There's a benign window of opportunity that I see stretching out to the new year and we're very confident that we'll be able to fund ourselves on the market."

Mr Noonan said Ireland had built up more than €20bn in cash reserves and even if we had a credit line, we wouldn't have to use the facility next year.

"Then the consideration would be will we take it so chat we will have the option of extending it. Thats a very bad reason for going into a precautionary programme when we don't need it for the 12 months operational period of the programme," he said.

The minister said total funding for next year is between €6bn and €10bn, yet the state has reserves of more than €20bn.

"We don't have to borrow on the markets next year, but our intention would be to go back into the markets probably late January or early February"

The minister said he had never asked for a precautionary programme but simply took advice from treasuries across the Eurozone.

"We knew where we stood, but we never got into the space of what conditions might attach," he said.

Mr Noonan said that when the history books are written, the troika will be seen as being very helpful to Ireland.

European Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn said it was a good day for Ireland and the Irish people

"It provides clear evidence that determined implementation of a comprehensive reform agenda can decisively turn around a country's economic fortunes and put it back on a path of sustainable growth and rising employment," he said.

IMF head Christine Lagarde said Ireland had built up a strong position in terms of its bond yields and cash buffer.

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