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Financial Times casts doubt over NAMA role

IRISH banks remain on "life support" and "nobody knows" if NAMA is working, the Financial Times newspaper says today.

In a scathing assessment of the Irish banking crisis, the internationally respected business paper casts doubts over Ireland's ability to recover from the current economic gloom.

It says that Anglo is "still the rotting corpse in the disaster zone of Irish banking" and warns that investors are turning sceptical again about the country's prospects.

The "real cost of the mess" needs to be revealed quickly in order to stall the freefall. The FT article follows a similar piece in yesterday's New York Times which asked "Can one bank bring down a country?"

Last night the Government parties issued a statement saying it was "united in its determination in relation to the resolution of the Anglo Irish Bank issue".

And today Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan described Anglo as "a very regrettable and unfortunate and legacy issue that you would not want to manage". He confirmed the Greens now favour a wind-down of Anglo rather than the good bank/bad bank split that the Government had mooted.

"We want to see it resolved very quickly," he said.

Crisis

But according the FT the country's "most pressing question" is whether NAMA is actually allowing the banks return to normal functions.

And that answer, it says, is that "nobody knows".

"The country's banking crisis continues, two years after Lehman Brothers collapsed.

"The banks remain on life support through a blanket guarantee on deposits and most debt; Anglo Irish Bank continues to make ludicrous losses; and there is growing scepticism over official assurances that the cost of rescuing the system has been contained," the paper's LEX column says.

It describes NAMA as "an odd creature: part debt collection agency, part property developer".

"As well as toxic loans, it may end up with a portfolio of property which was collateral for the banks' lending binge.

"It was meant to fix the broken banks, convince taxpayers they might be repaid and reassure the markets the banks' liabilities would be met in full.

"Facing in three directions, it has not appeared convincing in any: slow, bureaucratic, initially indecisive, almost excessively transparent (every toxic loan is assessed individually)," it notes.

However, despite the downbeat review of Brian Lenihan's master plan, the column does acknowledge that it's "too early to write off Nama".

"Contrary to early fears it has not become a creature of the banks ... " it says.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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