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Nama set to pay €2bn over to Exchequer later this week

Policy change means windfall can be spent by new government

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Calling for patience: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe

Calling for patience: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe

Calling for patience: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe

NAMA is expected to announce a €2bn payment to the Exchequer later this week, its first major return since it was set up more than a decade ago and a spending boost to the incoming coalition.

Under the new Programme for Government the money will be available to spend immediately, potentially feeding in to a planned July stimulus package.

Earlier this year, Nama confirmed it is on the course to return a total surplus of €4.5bn to taxpayers over the course of 2020 and 2021, when the agency is due to be wound up. The agency is sitting on more than €2bn in cash having paid back the last of the €31bn of debt it took on a decade ago to fund its share of the banking bailout.

The agency took over €70bn of loans from the banks in exchange for IOUs, leaving the banks to carry the difference.

Last month private investors who took a stake in Nama at the time it was set up received their final €56m payment. That was the last technical hurdle that had to be cleared before taxpayers could make a recovery.

Nama is due to publish its annual report later this week, which creates an opportunity to transfer funds to the Exchequer.

The money had long been earmarked to go to reduce the national debt. However, under the new Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green Party Programme for Government the money can be spent in order to reduce the State's borrowing requirements.

"We will use any windfall gains such as the Nama surplus, the final resolution of the liquidation of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation or the sale of the State's shareholdings in the banks, to reduce our borrowing requirements," the Programme for Government states.

Nama was set up to take over more than €70bn of boom-era property loans in a bid to get bust banks back lending after the financial crisis. Nama paid less than 50c on the euro for the loans, with the banks nursing the loss.

The return of significant funds to the Exchequer is a better result than many people predicted when the agency was established - with some experts even anticipating a loss. However, while Nama has outperformed its own estimates, the State's overall loss as a result of the banking crisis has yet to crystallise.

The liquidation of IBRC is expected to provide another windfall later this year of around €1.25bn, but the bulk of the €36bn cost of bailouts for Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) which were merged to form IBRC has been lost.

The cost of the banking crisis was estimated at €41.7bn by the Comptroller and Auditor General last year, but that changes based on the value of the State's stakes in AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB.

The performance of shares in AIB in particular will have a material impact. AIB was bailed out at a cost of €22bn and the State still holds an almost 72pc stake. Those shares have plunged over the past two years, a paper decline of well over €8bn in the taxpayers' share of the bank.

The new Programme for Government says it is policy to sell bank stakes, but Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said it could be another decade before that is done.

Irish Independent