Business Irish

Thursday 19 September 2019

Ireland are punished for best in class status

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

IRELAND'S dramatic success in getting back into the bond markets threatens to cost us a deal on our debt.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan will return today with the praise of ministers, central bankers and bailout officials ringing in his ears.

But this won't disguise the fact that he is coming back empty-handed.

In Cyprus, the Irish Government and people got our by-now ritual pat on the back from top officials. But there is no deal on our debt.

Mr Noonan likes to remind listeners that his country is meeting 120 out of 120 conditions imposed under the bailout.

That we are back in the markets ahead of schedule and building real momentum as a borrower, with an increasingly wide and diverse investor base, is a good news story that is begging to be built on.

Instead, a deal on our debt risks being parked because the country is no longer seen as enough of a basket case to warrant immediate action.

It is now becoming increasingly clear that Ireland's status as the 'best boy in the class' is now part of the problem.

That is a huge danger.

The experience of the past four years is that unless it is faced with dramatic danger, the European leadership is painfully slow to take any kind of action.

Disaster

Right back to the start of the crisis, the approach has been characterised by doing just enough, just on time, to avoid collapse.

This has been a disaster, sapping growth, confidence and jobs. The eurozone has been bashed from one unanticipated crisis to the next -- never managing to get out ahead of its problems.

Now Ireland is looking for something different -- a proactive approach to make things better by tackling the legacy-debt question.

Ireland wants to cut the disastrous connection between losses at banks and the national debt.

The Government wants to achieve a one-off and dramatic drop in the ratio of this country's debt.

Such an outcome could be a game-changer, rallying the private sector to lend to Ireland while removing any need for a future that includes the troika.

In public, everyone is happy to agree with that assessment.

In June, the leaders of the eurozone promised this -- but so far it has still not happened.

The latest talks in Nicosia suggest that the timing of any deal could now drift on for weeks -- or even months.

Problems in Spain are the immediate issue.

That is partly because a deal for Spain would be the model for any Irish deal -- but partly too because the threat of crisis there crowds Ireland off the top of the agenda.

In fact, it seems as if Ireland does not threaten crisis. As long as we can be held up as an example of a successful work in progress, then there is no hurry among our partners abroad to finish the project.

It's the only way to explain how the lavish praise heaped on this country for our efforts to raise ourselves is not leading to action.

Irish Independent

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