Posts tagged “banks”

Haul in the Bloody Bankers


Haul in the Bloody Bankers!

 

Bring the bloody bankers before the Public Accounts Committee! There should be three important steps taken as a result of what can only be described as the spectacularly successful hearings of the Public Accounts Committee.

                           One, the lawyers cant about Dáil Committees being an intrusion upon the work of the judiciary and the right of a man to his good name, should be treated as the self-interested rubbish it is and the PAC should do as it has done in the Rehab and penalty points debacle, insist on the principle that it has authority where public monies are concerned and haul before it eh bankers and everyone else involved in the  greatest, most wasteful  expenditure of public money in the history of the State, the infamous bank bailout.

                             The greedy corrupt, and inefficient decision-takers in law, politics, the professions and the financial institution s who indulged in the orgy of reckless trading that brought upon us a crash that has driven people to kill themselves should be treated as those responsible for  the penalty point s debacle and the misuse of charitable funds held up to public scrutiny and condemnation.

                        Public opinion has c hanged since the lawyers helped to sway the referendum which decided again against giving the people, via their elected representatives, the power to  hearings into the causes of the bank crash. The workings of the public accounts committee have helped the change minds for the better and the change should be acted on.

              I say to the PAC: public opinion is with you, strike now while the iron is hot- bring the bloody bankers before you.

 

              The second point which I refer to in my opening paragraph is that, also arising from the PAC deliberations that there should be a thorough going inquiry into the running of the Garda Síochána. We need something on the lines of Chris Patten’s overhaul of the police in the six counties.

              For some time I have been increasingly annoyed at the annual statements by the Garda commissioner and his cohorts about crime statistics. To listen to the official pronouncements one would think that matters were not too bad, or even in some categories that crime is down.

              This is sheer nonsense. This week for example one only had to listen to Valerie Cox’ reports on RTE radio one about the reign of terror endured by elderly people in county Donegal to wonder did the crime statisticians live on the same planet as the rest of us.

              The plain fact is that crime in the Republic has gone to Hell in a hand basket. When I began work in the Evening Press in August 1954 there were two murders that year. Now one would feel lucky to only have two in a week. On top of that Garda stations are being closed down left, right and centre. No matter what anyone says this must have an effect on the crime statistics.

              The guards like the rest of the community are suffering pay cuts and morale in the force is low. There was too much reliance on overtime within the force and like other sections of the community the Gardaí in the good days were able to get loans without much difficulty. That’s not the case now.

              I remember during a previous recession in the seventies when prison warders were known to take their wives to New York for Christmas shopping until the overtime was suddenly axed, Drastic, but secret action had to be taken by the authorities.

              Lending institutions were visited by government representatives issuing warnings against foreclosures without notifying the authorities first. The Department of Justice wanted the opportunity of quietly helping out with loans rather than rendering the warders susceptible to bribery by the Provisionals.

              It’s high time that the whole question of moral in the force, how promotions are affected, how income packages are built up, what is the state of the equipment and why we can’t be told in plain language why we don’t see more guards on the street should be publically aired.

         I‘ve a particular interest in the police force, my father was the first Garda deputy commissioner and I grew up believing, as I still do that the establishment of an unarmed police force in the midst of a Civil War was one of the greatest achievements in the history of the state, it’s a legacy worth preserving – nobody suffers more than the average decent member of the force from bad behaviour on the part of any of their colleagues.

              If an inquiry would show that there is a genuine need for investment in the force, then let us have it, let there be recruitment, let there be more modern car fleets etc, isn’t it a damn sight better to have a top class police force than to pump billions into bank – and before the year is out remember, we may well have to cough up more billions when the Europeans conduct their stress test on our banks

              Already there has been one ominous straw in the wind Michael Noonan has let it be known that the government is looking for some international bank to come in here and help with lending as the economy improves. That’s a fairly clear indication that despite all the billions expended on them the Irish banks are not in a position to do that lending.

              Finally the third point, maybe last but it’s not least, but the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and the Garda Commissioner Mr Martin Callinan should resign, if this were England they’d be gone already. I’ll expand on this topic along with the significance of a very worrying incident concerning Garda oversight which I was personally involved in. Wait for it!

 


The Budget from hell


Shortly before the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, entered the Dail to deliver his budget speech on April 7th I witnessed three dramas which more eloquently described the state of Irish society than did the budget debate.

In one, a man in a business suit standing beside me in a Dublin bar with three friends proffered a laser card to pay for three pints he had just ordered and when asked did he want cash back after paying for the pints replied “Yes – twenty euro”. The machine declined his card. In the second, a wealthy friend, who intended taking his wife to dinner was told by the exclusive restaurant which he had chosen that it was booked up for almost five weeks ahead. In the third, over the course of a single day, another friend, Brother Kevin, a Capuchin monk, and his helpers, dispensed several hundred free meals at his drop in centre at the friary in Dublin’s Church St, and in addition oversaw the distribution of over eight hundred food parcels.

What effect is Brian Lenihan’s budget likely to have on the actors in those three incidents?

The most likely answer is that Brother Kevin’s customers will increase, the restaurant’s will decrease and the man in the business suit will do what he can to forget pint drinking for the foreseeable future.

For, we are told, the budget, which was immediately dubbed “The Budget from Hell”, by Labour Party spokesperson, Joan Burton, is going to be followed in December by another budget, which will contain further taxes and levies including, it is speculated, a property and a carbon tax. Thereafter, be it in yearly instalments, or six monthly, as seems increasingly possible, over the course of the next three or four years, we are promised more blood, sweat and tears.

The number of billions which the Government has to make up for the shortfall in revenue, caused both by the global recession and by its own folly in putting all the nation’s eggs into the baskets of builders and developers, is like any other mountain. It gets bigger as it is approached .

In order to get over the mountain the government stated intent—made known more by leaks than by direct policy announcements— was to follow two tracks: Taxation and cutting public services. So far both paths have followed the well known route of services to single parents, women, children and the elderly first—for the chop. Though to be fair it has to be admitted that in their zeal to make sure that the misery is evenly spread the government has also done its best through its levies and the cutting of child benefits to ensure that life also becomes an appropriate hell for a middle income couple engaging in self-indulgent forms of activity such as paying a mortage and providing an education for their children. What all this has to do with the reduction of unemployment and the creation of jobs God only knows. However, in doing all this the Government faced both serious problems and a serious purpose, which, tragically, may not have been met.

The problems, apart from the fall in revenue, and the need to bring the public finances under control, included the fact that the growth in cross-border shopping has meant that it dared not touch assured revenue spinners of the past, “the old reliables” of alcohol and petrol. The serious purpose was to reassure foreign investors that Ireland Inc was worth investing in.

But, during the few minutes during which they remained open for business after the Minister for Finance had unveiled his budget strategy in the late afternoon of April 7th, European stock exchanges recorded heavy selling of Irish Government bonds. Was it that the traders wanted the cuts to be even deeper? The levies and taxes to go higher? Knowing such people, the answer is probably “yes”. But was there another reason? Regrettably it appears that there may well be: The toxic debts of the Irish banking system. The banking system, apart from running up astronomical debts also spawned a culture of greed and corruption, that seriously damaged Ireland’s reputation in the international financial community.

No one knows this better than Brian Lenihan, and in his budget speech he was, , not alone extraordinarily honest and outspoken on the issue (for a Fianna Fail minister) he also outlined very specific plans to bring in new personalities and structures. The new Irish financial regulator for example will be a person of international standing, chosen with the help of international expertise. But, in his speech, Lenihan also finally bit on the bullet of dealing with debt mountain which Irish bankers built up in their lendings to property developers and announced the setting up of an agency to take over the bad debts.

The idea is that over time the new agency would get value from them for the Irish tax-payer while allowing the thus relieved banks to get back to lending and stirring the stagnant economy back to normal healthy commercial life. However it was also revealed that the toxic debts could be as high as ninety billions. This figure is of course disputed by government sources who say that this is only the notional value of the assets against which money was lent and that in fact the debts will be less than 30% of the so called assets book value. Some put the true debt at around 20 millions—still a hell of a lot for a small nation.

But on top of this, for some time government agencies, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, have been picking up disturbing rumours that there was a belief abroad that the Irish government’s controversial deposits guarantee scheme for the banks, introduced last year to stem a run on the banks, may also have included a guarantee of the banks’ debts. In some right wing financial bibles, such as the Financial Times and the Economist, the word about Ireland has not been kind recently, to say the least of it. The fact that Ireland had the temerity to introduce its own guarantee scheme without consulting London, or anyone else, went down badly. Not for the first time English financial figures muttered about the Irish behaving as though they were a sovereign nation. Now the announcement about taking over bank debts has awakened fears that Dublin has let itself in not merely for guarantees on deposits, but on debts as well. The miseries inflicted on the little people by the budget, could yet prove, not alone only a foretaste of things to come, but futile into the bargain.