Friday 23 March 2018

State assets back on table as bailout exit nears

Fionnan Sheahan Group Political Editor

THE use of the proceeds of the sale of state assets is back on the table in negotiations on the exit from the bailout. Another horrendous Budget in 2015 would likely also be the price for the Government of having a safety net loan on standby after exiting the bailout.

Bord Gais and part of the ESB are among the so-called crown jewel state assets due to be sold off.

The funds from the state assets are supposed to be divided between paying down debt and investment in job creation.

How the funds are carved up is now featuring in talks with the troika on the exit from the bailout and whether to take on another overdraft facility.

"If there was to be that option taken, would it take account of some of the existing conditions? It's all in the mix," a spokesman said.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin were meeting yesterday with the troika team, which is in Ireland to conduct the final examination of the bailout programme.

The Government has to make a decision in the next month on whether to take on the backstop, known as a precautionary credit facility.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, pictured below, said the Government had to decide on whether to apply for an overdraft facility to ease the transition from bailout to full market access by December 15, when the country is due to leave the bailout.

"Any precautionary line would require conditions to be attached to it," he said.

"Depending on who you speak to, conditions could be wide-ranging or not."

Mr Kenny said yesterday the country had come through a "very difficult time" in the last three years.

"We have growth predictions of up to 2pc next year, we're creating jobs in the private sector and this renewed confidence is evident here.

"This is a really exciting time for our country," he said.

Mr Kenny said the Budget had been pro-business and pro-enterprise.

"It is very important here to restore indigenous confidence in our own economy here," he said.

Irish Independent

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