Sunday 17 February 2019

Noonan needs to toughen up with our greedy banks

Sarah Carey

I wish this was ancient history, but it's not.

Remember the bit about how the banks, populated by a bunch of testosterone-fuelled cowboys with a sense of invincibility, but no other kind of sense, showed up one night at the Department of Finance where a bunch of panic-stricken conservative civil servants caved in to the prospect of economic mayhem?

You know how we all subsequently agreed that that fateful intertwining of sovereign and bank debt was a terrible disaster? And how we swore we'd never let the banks do this to us again?

 

Well, here we are again. The Department of Finance and the NTMA are rolling over and forcing the citizens of this country to reach into their pockets to protect the banks. I'm not talking about the 40pc of the national debt that's the payback for the bailout money or the promissory notes.

This time, it's about the mandarins granting a request by the financial institutions to reduce the interest rates on savings in the Post Office, and the prizes in the Prize Bonds.

Here's what's been happening. Despite all the debt problems you read about there are a lot of people in the country who have savings. I'm one of them. My husband calls them my "secret accounts": the little bits of cash I've got squirrelled away.

There's the Children's Allowance in a Post Office account, and then a lump sum in Prize Bonds.

I used to have that lump sum in a bank, but I took it out, for three reasons.

First, this financial crisis is not over, and I don't believe any Irish bank is solvent and safe. Second, the interest rates were insultingly low. When you take off DIRT and add inflation, really you were paying them to mind your cash. And thirdly, they turned out to be a bunch of immoral, untrustworthy charlatans.

Over at the Post Office, my money is safer, and since they aren't charging DIRT I get more interest and, hey, I might win big on the Prize Bonds.

I wasn't the only one thinking this way, because last year, the banks lost ¿1.4bn in deposits, while the Post Office gained ¿1bn. This is citizens rebelling in the only way they can.

But the banks didn't like people taking their money and running.

So they complained about the mean old people making rational decisions and protecting themselves against the para-criminal activities of once-respectable institutions. The letters, quoted in a Sunday newspaper, listed various woes.

The message was basically this: "It's not fair! People are earning more at the Post Office, and rather than compete and offer better rates, we'd like you to cut the Post Office rates!"

Now, after everything the banks have done to us, what do you think the mandarins should have said? "Sod off?" or, "You want deposits? Then offer good rates and win back trust".

But no, it was the usual. "Why yes, sir. Of course, sir. Anything else, sir? Why don't we just shut down the whole idea of State Savings if that would help?"

I blame Finance Minister Michael Noonan. I know he does a good line in wisecracks, but the press have let him away with this weak-assed, bank-pleasing policy because they like him.

Well it's time to get over that and start demanding that for once and for all, the psychological and economic link between sovereign and bank is broken.

We owe them nothing.

 

(The Herald)

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