Irish central bank Governor Patrick Honohan said the country will avoid economic “doomsday,” as a government minister and prominent professor suggested the nation should reschedule debts from its as much as 85 billion-euro ($121 billion) bailout.
Honohan was responding to Morgan Kelly, an economics professor dubbed Ireland’s Doctor Doom, who wrote in the Irish Times newspaper that Ireland faces a “prolonged and chaotic national bankruptcy.”
“What we are on working on is a plan, that if things go well in terms of economic growth, is clearly something that will bring debt on a sustainable path,” Honohan said in an interview with Dublin-based RTE radio Sunday. “If things don’t go well, it will be much more difficult. In that case, there will be a problem.”
Kelly said the country faces “economic ruin” unless it walks away from last year’s bailout, withdraws support for banks and cuts its fiscal deficit to zero. Ireland’s debt will peak at 116 percent of gross domestic product in 2014, according to government forecasts published on April 29. The figure was 25 percent at the end of 2007. Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte said Sunday that “in my own view” the debt stemming from Ireland’s bailout “must be rescheduled.”
Ireland last year sought the bailout as investors shunned government and bank debt after the economy shrank about 15 percent since 2007. Talks on the terms of the bailout are continuing, with the government seeking a cut on the average 5.8 percent interest rate the Irish are paying on the aid.
The debt “is a serious problem and needs to be managed in discussion with our European partners,” Honohan said, adding Ireland is on “a very low growth scenario.”
“We are keeping our options open,” Honohan said. “We have a number of cards, we don’t have many cards, in these negotiations. There is a right time to play your most important cards,” he said.
In an interview with Dublin-based RTE radio Sunday, Rabbitte said he hopes that the “punitive” average 5.8 percent rate on Ireland’s bailout may be reduced at a meeting of European finance ministers later this month after European Commissioners gave a “notice of approval” for a reduction.
The country’s loans will be repaid in line with their terms and conditions, Eoin Dorgan, an Irish Finance Ministry spokesman, said today in a phone interview after Rabbitte’s remarks. He said a report in the Irish Mail on Sunday that the country may restructure its debts is “completely outlandish.”
The government may restructure debts to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, the Mail said today, citing an unidentified “senior minister.”
The extra yield investors demand to hold Irish 10-year bonds rather than German securities of similar maturity widened 13 basis points to 718 points on May 6. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point. The spread was 646 on November 6, just before Ireland’s bailout was agreed on.
Kelly wrote the bailout may be considered an “abject failure.” A University College Dublin economist, Kelly was given the “Doom” nickname by newspapers including the New York Times after he forecast in 2006 that Irish property prices may decline as much as 80 percent.
Kelly said ownership of Ireland’s banks should be handed over to the European Central Bank and the government should immediately reduce the fiscal deficit to zero from about 10 percent of gross domestic product. That would allow the country wean itself from reliance on outside aid and slash its debt.
“I always take him seriously,” said Honohan, adding a lot of his analysis “absolutely spot on.” Also, “there are some serious errors in it. The story he spins is somewhat incomplete.”
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