Friday 19 January 2018

Cowen tells nation to be upbeat despite downgrade by Moody's

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen yesterday insisted the economy is seen as stable despite the decision by a leading agency to downgrade Ireland's credit rating.

Mr Cowen said there is no danger of the international community thinking the Irish economy is not recovering as a result of Moody's decision to downgrade government bonds.

He said the National Treasury Management Agency, which manages the national debt and is having its monthly auction of Irish bonds today, believes it is "very clear that we are seen as a stable economy that is forging ahead with taking decisions at national level that are available to us".

Moody's also changed the outlook for Ireland from negative to stable, and said the country had turned the corner.


The latest development comes as the Cabinet prepares for an all-day meeting in Farmleigh, in Dublin, tomorrow to discuss how to save €3bn in December's Budget through a combination of increased taxes and spending cuts. Ministers will also finalise details of a €40bn five-year capital spending programme, which is expected to be announced later this week.

Mr Cowen also said the Moody's report contained many positives on the economy and asked the media to "look at all of the report".

And he accused the media of "pervasive negativity" in its coverage of the economy, at a time when over 450,000 people are on the dole queue and the national debt is at a record €84bn because of bank bailouts.

"You know, we have enough, frankly, of this pervasive negativity all the time, trying to take a bad interpretation of a report which in fact is supportive of what Government is doing," Mr Cowen said.

"So can we kindly get the real message out?" he asked assembled journalists at the launch of Food Harvest 2020, a government strategy for the agri-food, drinks and fisheries sectors.

Mr Cowen also said people in Ireland must have confidence in the country's ability to emerge from the economic crisis. Those outside Ireland took the view that the country was taking the right decisions and was on the road to recovery, he claimed.

"The message from outside this country is that Ireland is seen to be proactively taking and confronting the challenges that it faces and it is getting ahead with doing the business that is necessary," he said.

Mr Cowen said everyone had a part to play in restoring confidence in the economy.

"Domestically, internally -- and everyone has a role to play in this -- confidence is not based on putting our head in the sand. We recognise the problems that we have but it's confidence based on a realistic assessment of this country's ability to confront the problems we have and get out of the difficulties we're in."

Mr Cowen also said a "can-do" approach would help pull the country back to economic stability and said Irish producers had to get out to international markets and sell their goods.

"Our competitors are getting out there to sell, we have to get out there and sell and whatever it takes for us to price ourselves back into the marketplace so that we can have export-led recovery in this country -- that's what this Government is committed to doing."

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said the Government did not yet know how severe the December Budget would be, but added it had already indicated that €1bn of cuts would come from capital projects.

"The other €2bn will have to be found in direct cuts to services or reduced services generally and that hasn't been discussed yet," he said.


Irish Independent

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