Wednesday 17 January 2018

Richard Curran: We're ready to play guinea pig in the great euro game

Richard Curran

Richard Curran

Ireland's bailout exit is increasingly looking like some kind of European financial experiment. The Coalition wants to exit the bailout for its own good reasons but has to be sure it is prepared if anything goes wrong.

The NTMA has stockpiled around €25bn in cash by borrowing more than we need in case of emergencies. It will cost around €600m in additional interest payments, regardless of whether we use the money or not.

For a real belt-and-braces approach we can also negotiate a precautionary credit line with the Troika, put in place should we run into problems raising money at the right price next year. This seems eminently sensible, as long as there are proportionate conditions attached to it.

The EU, and the Germans in particular, should be falling over themselves to provide this facility to the first of the eurozone's 'bold boys' to exit a bailout, thereby proving austerity works and showing the way for others.

But, alas no – the Germans want some real strings attached to the credit line, because the money could come from the European bailout fund, the ESM.

What if our banks need more money next year? We shouldn't have to use this government credit line but the banks should be recapitalised directly by the ESM.

Not so, say the Germans. The ESM shouldn't provide money directly to banks. The Irish Government wants the EU to stand by its commitment to provide funding directly to re-capitalise Irish banks. Such a move would determine whether EU money is used to capitalise everybody's banks and is therefore tied up with progression of the entire European banking union project.

So Ireland remains trapped in the laboratory of the eurozone's financial crisis, until a deal is hammered out.

Sunday Independent

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