The Irish banking system effectively collapsed this week following a flood of cash out of the country in the wake of the rejection of the rescue plan for the US banks in Washington on Sunday night only to be resurrected by a maverick government who guaranteed all investments in their 6 domestic banks.
The size of the guarantee that the Irish Governent have put in place is unknown but could be greater than the $700billion being debated in Washsington.
Initial estimates were that the guarantee will be worth €400bn ($575bn) but it emerged today that the governemnt will be forced to extend it to all EU banks with a retail presence in the market. The Irish taxpayer has now guaranteed an insurance policy for Europe’s banks that amounts to $163,000 for every citizen of Ireland. If I were an Irish citizen I would not be happy.
Government cleaning up their own mess?
Over the past 10 years the Irish government has presided over an economic boom fueled by an over-valued property bubble. Government policy, formulated for political advantage in the 2007 General election was to fuel that property boom and effectively create a false economy that was doomed to collapse and made their banks the most vulnerable in the world to the current crisis. Hence their hasty bailout at the expense of their taxpayers.
Reaction was mixed across the world.
The Irish Times listed the following synopsis of global reaction today:
The Guardian said British prime minister Gordon Brown was wary of matching the move for fear his government does not have the cash. In an opinion piece in the same paper, Will Hutton claimed that Britain needed its own plan.
The Globe and Mail in Canada reported that the bank bailout has boosted Maple bonds because several of the Irish financial institutions covered by the guarantee have issued debt in the Canadian dollar-denominated Maple market.
In an opinion piece in the the London Independent , Jeremy Warner said: “The potential is there for Ireland’s actions to spark a beggar thy neighbour round of similar guarantees. In these markets, money will chase the safest havens. Bank deposits that are guaranteed by the taxpayer take on the characteristics of government bonds.
“Unless everyone else does the same thing, Ireland therefore becomes the safest place in Europe to keep your money. As such, it amounts to a form of unfair, or even illegal, state aid.”
The Wall Street Journal said the move was “an extraordinary step” which was “one of the most ambitious measures taken by a government since the [credit crunch] crisis began”.
The Daily Mail warned that the two-year unlimited guarantee on all deposits is “expected to cause anger” among the many UK banks operating in the country.
“Ulster Bank, an offshoot of Royal Bank of Scotland, is Ireland’s third biggest lender but it is not covered by the new rules. However, since all overseas branches are also covered by the safety net, Irish
banks are at a significant advantage to their European rivals,” it said.
The Financial Times claimed that the Government’s move was “not so much the proverbial Irish solution to an Irish problem as an Irish solution to what is a global problem”.
“The move is causing ructions in Brussels, where there is concern the Irish move shatters any hope of
pan-European regulatory response to the turmoil,” it added.
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung praised the Irish Government for “not wasting any time” with its plan. Brian Lenihan’s State guarantee was a more pragmatic and practical solution than that favoured by the German finance minister, “who looks for people to blame and, in parliament, points the finger at the Americans.
“By calming citizens and securing bank financing, the guarantee should achieve its aim of avoiding forced bank nationalisation,” the newspaper wrote.
“It would be better for the confidence of citizens when at least the European countries could put together a co-ordinated, unified approach by its politicians and central bankers.”
Spain’s El Pais described the Irish Government’s plan as “a dramatic decision”.
The Daily Telegraph described the Government’s plan as “the most dramatic and comprehensive bank bailout in Europe since the Scandinavian rescues of the early 1990s”.