Business Irish

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Maeve Dineen: Give us Nyberg again -- with all the inside details

Late last Friday night, the Government released its Stability Programme Update, a document that EU member states are obliged to produce twice a year -- and it didn't make for pleasant reading.

In it, the Government downgraded its outlook for Ireland's economic recovery; it also said fewer jobs were expected to materialise this year and the national debt was anticipated to rise further.

The new 2011 projections for gross domestic product (GDP) have been cut by more than half. In December, the Department of Finance believed GDP would increase by 1.8pc this year. Now it foresees a growth rate of just 0.8pc.

The forecasts are considerably more downbeat than the assumptions upon which Budget 2011 was based in December 2010 and a sure sign that even tougher austerity measures are now on the way.

The current period was described by the department as a "relatively jobless recovery", with the domestic economy expected to remain in recession this year and next.

The export sector will continue to be the only great white hope, according to the new figures, and the much-hyped jobs initiative to get Ireland back working again can only be achieved now if it is "cost neutral".

The Fine Gael /Labour Government must know it is already in a bind. It has been forced by the EU-IMF to effectively implement the previous Government's four-year austerity plan; any possibility of a renegotiation of the bailout terms is at least two years away; and now the economic situation is deteriorating at a faster pace than anticipated.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn summed it up last week at the teachers' conferences when he said that the cuts would not be reversed. In all probability they will be deepened -- we're a bankrupt nation with nothing in the kitty.

Starring down the barrel of a default, the Coalition's hands are tied. Any sort of spending or capital investment is clearly off the agenda and it's difficult to make any real impact in government without spending money.

Therefore, the Coalition will now have to come up with more inventive ways of proving that they are serving the people. Ways that involve not spending too much money.

One area worth looking at is its commitment in the Programme for Government to greater openness and transparency.

It has already fallen spectacularly at the first hurdle by failing to externally advertise for the appointment of a three new secretary generals.

But Finance Minister Michael Noonan could lead a charge by taking another stab at the Nyberg report.

Yes, I know we're blue in the face from banking inquiries but three reports on and we're actually none the wiser.

Former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan commissioned Nyberg and set such tight terms and conditions that we always knew we'd learn nothing.

But Mr Noonan can change this. He can demand that 200,000 documents collected by the Nyberg commission of investigation be revisited and a meaningful reportproduced with names, dates and the activities they were involved in.

It's appalling that these documents will be kept on a computer server for the next 30 years, their contents remaining confidential. They are mostly emails and internal bank documents -- and the only organisation that could gain access to them would be any future tribunal into banking.

The last thing we need is another tribunal. We need the Nyberg report to be revisited, but this time done properly and promptly.

Mr Noonan has said the report is the story of an inept government that fuelled the trends instead of restraining them.

Give us all the forensic details so that the public, who once benefited from the banking boom and are now paying for it, can stop picking at the scab and move on.

Let's have it once more with feeling, minister.

Irish Independent

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