Saturday 17 November 2018

Experts agree banks must be stabilised before the recovery

JOE BRENNAN and JOHN MULLIGAN

The beleaguered banking system must be sorted out before the Irish economy has any chance of getting off its knees, according to most of the 180 leading business people gathered at this weekend's Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin.

Speaking to the Irish Independent on the sidelines of the brainstorming session, conducted behind closed doors, Donegal-born businessman Gerry Robinson said Ireland would not be able to build a smart economy and create jobs unless the banking system was stabilised.

"If Ireland is going to attract the high-end industries such as pharmaceuticals and technology, it needs to have a functioning banking system that is able to lend," said Mr Robinson, former chairman of drinks giant Allied Domecq and ex-chairman and chief executive of media group Granada.

He added "there's a general view" that the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) plan of the State taking over €77bn of risky property assets from the banks "is a mechanism that can work".

"The unfortunate thing is the scale of the problem means that the State really has to get involved," he said.

Tom Corcoran, a senior adviser with US private equity group Carlyle, said he was still learning about the details of NAMA.

"It is a real dilemma. But if the Government does nothing, then the economy continues to suffer," said Mr Corcoran, who hails from Cavan.

Long haul

Bob McCann, former head of US investment bank Merrill Lynch's brokerage business, said that while Ireland "has been knocked back a couple of steps", it can pull itself back "for the long haul".

On the NAMA project, Mr McCann said: "People are very quick to be critical. There is no regulator, there is no central bank in the world that has a play book they can pull out to deal with what we're dealing with today as a global economy, or what the Government and others are dealing with here in Ireland."

He added: "There are assets here and there are loans here that need to be cleaned up. I can't tell you that what was announced this week in every way is perfect or in every way is going to accomplish things in the way that we all hope, but I believe they are steps in the right direction and we have got to take those steps."

Mr McCann also said that Ireland needed to continue its efforts to attract financial services sectors.

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