Friday 23 February 2018

Austerity no joke for the Germans

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

ONE of the country's most senior civil servants has taken a tongue-in-cheek swipe at Germany's view on austerity -- as Chancellor Angela Merkel was casting serious doubt on Ireland's hope for a banking debt deal.

Department of Finance secretary-general John Moran, pictured, provoked laughter at the Institute of Public Administration's conference when he said there was no direct translation of the word austerity in German.

"Austerity doesn't exist as a word in German, apparently. It doesn't translate. It's just normal behaviour. It does, however, exist in French," he said.

"We would certainly find ourselves more comfortable with the discussions that we have with the French treasury."

Around the same moment that he was delivering his remarks, Ms Merkel was pouring cold water on Ireland's hopes that its bank debt could be eased through funds from Europe's bailout pot, the European Stability Mechanism.

Attendees at the IPA conference expected to hear Mr Moran outline the "challenges and opportunities in Ireland's economic strategy".

In a way they did, but the content was more light-hearted than expected, given his hard-hitting speech on mortgage arrears earlier in the week.

The audience was given a wide-ranging 20-minute address on the need to think differently about how we kick-start growth in the economy.

The thrust of the unscripted speech was that we cannot live by austerity alone.

As a semi-outsider to the civil service, Mr Moran's appointment in March by Finance Minister Michael Noonan was seen as a breath of fresh air.

At the IPA's offices, the Limerick native talked about how he wanted to take 20pc of the staff of every government department and have them work on growth strategies.

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, who was chairing the IPA event, seemed impressed, referring to Mr Moran as "open and fun".

Irish Independent

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