Monday 16 December 2013

Ireland exits the Bailout, but not Austerity

Today Ireland has exited the EU bail-out programme - the first country to do so - but it doesn't mean an end to austerity. Appearing on TV last night in a State of the Nation Address, Taoiseach Enda Kenny praised the sacrifices of the public and said that Ireland had regained its international standing. However, "prudent budgetary policies" will continue, meaning that there will be further austerity. The transport minister has also cautioned against any "giveaway budgets" on the basis that the public will be skeptical of them.

Ireland still needs to repay the bail-out loans and reduce its debt, and monitoring of the national finances will continue at the EU level (although now it will be based on the semester system in line with other Eurozone states, rather than the more controlling Troika process). The senior coalition partner, Fine Gael (EPP), is hoping that exiting the bail-out will generate enough satisfaction that things are slowly going in the right direction, even if people aren't feeling any benefit in their lives or in their communities.

For the junior partner, Labour (PES), this strategy is unlikely to work. Having campaigned in the election on a platform of "Labour's way or Frankfurt's way", there is little gain for Labour in a slow recovery (despite its attempts to capitalise on it). And not only is the economy bad for Labour, but when it comes to popular, more liberal, stances on social policy (abortion and same sex marriage, for example), it doesn't seem to boost Labour's position.

Whatever the position of the governing parties, there is really little to be excited about on the Irish economy. The stronger export sector has been an advantage, but with the general economic malaise in Europe and high levels of private debt in Ireland, it's hard to see where the growth is coming from. The bail-out and banking debts that the public have been saddled with results in continuing austerity with Kenny aiming for 2020 as the year recovery will be complete.

Ireland may be the star pupil of austerity, but it hardly demonstrates that austerity is a star policy.

1 comment:

  1. The first euro zone country to leave a bailout, Ireland's exit has been hailed by EU leaders as a sign the worst of the continent's debt crisis is over. Kenny forecast growth could allow the national debt to be cut by a quarter in seven years.

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