No happy ending outside Namaland
Madam -- Brendan O'Connor has lit a torch for Middle Ireland in his article on Harry Crosbie and Nama (Sunday Independent, February 26, 2012). But who will carry the flame?
His words will resonate with every hard-pressed business person and mortgage holder in Ireland. Middle Ireland cannot understand how, in Heaven's name, those in Nama with the extraordinary levels of debt are continuing to live wonderful lifestyles while the rest of us are tortured with worry about comparatively insignificant debt. It is as if, 'When Harry Met Nama', the orgasmic meeting transported both him and his debt into another sphere, removed his burden from him, so that he (and his ilk) could continue to do what it is they like.
I would like to tell the Happy Namas a story, one which many people in Ireland today could tell. We run a small business of long standing. Like many other businesses, it has been hit hard by the recession. So, we took action -- we cut our own pay drastically, ceased pension contributions, asked staff to take a wage reduction, trimmed all overheads (in so far as possible). Everything we could do, to try to survive.
We owe a comparatively modest amount of money, asset backed, but because these assets have been reduced in value, our bailed-out bank has waged a war on us to capture more assets. You see, we made a big mistake. We should have mortgaged those unencumbered assets during the boom, to buy some foolish faraway fields for development. If we had become developers and borrowed millions, we would not now be pursued. "That money is gone," we could say to ourselves, "to be paid by the taxpayer." Instead, if you talk to any business person in this country with even modest amounts of debt, they will tell you that the hardest part, the most frustrating, frightening part, of trying to keep a business going, is the harassment by the banks.
Overdrafts being pulled. Demands for further assets to be mortgaged to them. Term loans being offered to service overdrafts. Threats that facilities will not be renewed unless their demands are met. Surcharge interest being applied, at the very time a business needs every cent for cash-flow.
We are the struggling, the silent, the scared. We have no forum, no platform from which to articulate our terror. Much is being spoken, and quite rightly, about the plight of mortgage holders, but there is very little media coverage of the plight of people in business, who enable their employees to pay those mortgages. The sense of anger and despair down here in reality-land when we read about Nama is overwhelming, dispiriting, devastating.
Your newspaper could fill supplements with true case histories of the fear being inflicted by the banks on people in business. We constantly note that they are hitting those who are making repayments the hardest. The low-hanging fruit.
Small businesses, the backbone of the economic life of this country, are being crucified by the banks. Day after day, another business closes because the banks show no forbearance. We are afraid to speak out, such is the terror of their wrath.
Why can't all loans go into a sort of Namaminor so we could all get haircuts? It beggars belief that there is one law to write off millions for the bold, paid for by the penalisation of the prudent.
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