Wednesday 13 December 2017

We can still access ECB aid – Noonan

Mario Draghi: gave assurances to Michael Noonan
Mario Draghi: gave assurances to Michael Noonan
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

EVEN Ireland's top economic thinkers don't understand how the European Central Bank's government bond buying programme operates, Michael Noonan said yesterday.

The Finance Minister said leaving the bailout without a precautionary credit line neither rules Ireland in nor out of accessing the ECB's Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme.

It has been speculated that going it alone without the safety net of a credit line would ban Ireland from the ECB scheme.

"There is a misunderstanding in Ireland, even at the highest level of economic thinking, about OMT," Mr Noonan told TDs yesterday.

OMT was unveiled in September last year after the ECB pledged to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro, thus calming financial markets but stirring criticism from Germany's Bundesbank.

The minister said he had sought assurances from top ECB officials, including Mario Draghi, during which he had a "long conversation" about the as yet-unused programme.

He told the Dail that it wasn't designed as a solution for individual countries, but to intervene when there was a systemic problem affecting the eurozone as a whole.

"For OMT, according to Mr Draghi, it's for a systemic crisis in the euro and it's something that would apply across the eurozone.

"If we got into that position then it would apply to Ireland as any other country," Mr Noonan said.

"Of course, any country would then avail of it, it would be under conditions. So there would be some form of programme. It doesn't rule us out, or rule us in, or change our position at all actually and there's a serious misunderstanding in Ireland about how OMT operates."

Meanwhile, Mr Noonan also told the Dail that a precautionary credit line wouldn't have been a strong enough insurance policy if a wider problem occurred in the eurozone.

"Applying for a precautionary credit line would not actually cover the risk should a wider problem emerge in the euro area, for example arising from the stress tests in late 2014, not that I am suggesting that such a risk might materialise," Mr Noonan said.

He said the fact that there had been no reaction from the international markets showed that the Government's decision was "both correct and timely".

The minister said the twice-yearly post programme surveillance is "quite normal" and part of an early warning system amid the wider governance changes put in place at European level.

Mr Noonan also said that Irish officials had held talks with German officials amid plans for German bank KFW to provide funding to Ireland.

Irish Independent

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