Business World

Sunday 22 April 2018

What is a eurobond and would it suit Ireland?


Emmet Oliver

At present, while the 332 million people in the eurozone share a currency, their individual countries continue to borrow separately.

However, a so-called euro-bond system would see the eurozone -- and potentially some day the whole European Union -- borrowing as one collective unit, more like the US.

The way this might be done is that Europe would set up one debt management office -- like a giant NTMA -- for Europe. This office would borrow money on behalf of Europe by issuing so-called eurobonds.

These eurobonds would then trade on global markets, becoming something of a rival for US Treasury bonds, which are issued by the United States.

The interest rate attaching to these eurobonds would likely be ultra-low, because the scale and strength of Germany would be backing them up.

But some economists believe they would be more expensive than existing German bonds, which means that Germany would be signing up for higher borrowing costs and effectively subsidising other countries.

Smaller countries

For smaller countries like Ireland, the impact of a eurobond regime would be mixed. On one hand, Ireland would no longer have to borrow solely on its own. It could benefit from a guaranteed form of Europe-wide borrowing.

But this would come at a price -- Ireland would have less independence in setting its own Budget.

If the debts of Ireland formally become part of the debts of Europe, Europe is likely to demand a bigger say in how much member states borrow and how much they spend.

Most alarmingly from an Irish perspective, Europe may also demand a role in time in how countries tax people and companies.

Some economists have advocated allowing countries like Ireland to borrow some of their money in eurobonds, with the rest raised on the markets in the normal way.

This so-called system of "blue'' and "red'' bonds, would see Ireland being allowed to borrow up to a certain limit in eurobonds, with the rest borrowed by Ireland in its own right.

This second form of borrowing would likely be more expensive, which economists believe would discourage spendthrift countries from letting their budgets get out of balance.

Irish Independent

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