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Thursday 14 December 2017

'Recession adjustments occur at a cost for the citizens' -- ex-finance chief


HE was the most senior Department of Finance official in the room on the night of the infamous bank guarantee. More recently, a €3.6bn accounting error, which happened on his watch, embarrassed the country.

Now that he's comfortably ensconced in Luxembourg on €276,000 a year, former Department of Finance secretary-general Kevin Cardiff has finally broken his silence to 'wisely' declare that Ireland's economic adjustments will "occur at a cost for the citizens".

"Ireland is a country in a sort of transition. We have had a very deep recession and at this stage we have already had several years of economic adjustment. The adjustments occur at a cost for the citizens," Mr Cardiff said in the first interview he has given since his departure from Upper Merrion Street.

The interview itself has just been published on the website of the EU's Court of Auditors, where he now serves as Ireland's representative.

Referring to the changing international perception of Ireland's economy, Mr Cardiff said: "So there is a rebalancing of economists' and markets' opinion about Ireland, which is a result of concerted and determined efforts over a long period of time. But those efforts are at the cost of taxpayers and citizens who have to manage with fewer services, less pay or higher taxes."

And notwithstanding the chaos all across Europe and the very real threat posed to the future of the euro, he added: "In the perception of the markets, Ireland has appeared to create an identity of its own, and there is a real potential there for Ireland to access market funding in its own right and not rely purely on the EU and IMF programme support.

"Indeed, Ireland recently made a small fund-raising in the market, short-term money, but nonetheless it was a very good first step."

But however positive Mr Cardiff may be about Ireland's prospects in the face of Europe's ongoing economic turmoil, the barrage of criticism directed towards him in the Irish media following the discovery of a €3.6bn accounting error at the Department of Finance prior to his departure would still appear to rankle with him.

Asked if he is in favour of "naming and shaming" in reports those who do not follow EU rules, Mr Cardiff said: "We are neither journalists nor prosecutors. This is an audit institution and it needs to focus on its own objectives.

"If that sometimes means providing information that includes the names of countries or institutions, why not, but it is not about providing a particular story, it is about providing the informational base for decisions. As long as we stick to that priority, we get the balance right."

Sunday Independent

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