From Michael Cragg and Joseph Stiglitz @ the Irish Times – ECB-IMF deal is a noose that will strangle economic recovery:
In effect, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB) are asking ordinary Irish workers and citizens to bear the burden of mistakes that were made by international financial markets. But it is important to recognise that these mistakes are at least partly attributable to following deregulation and liberalisation policies that were advocated by the IMF and ECB and that these policies provided significant benefits to the financial sector.
Irish citizens bear the costs of these mistakes not only through higher unemployment, but also through lower wages, higher taxes and cutbacks in public services. That there will have to be some cutbacks is inevitable, but it is not inevitable that they be of the current form or magnitude. The Government’s steadfast and continuing policy of bailing out the Irish banks and their bondholders is at great personal cost to Irish citizens. The fundamental economic policy question is who should bear the costs of the mistakes. And this is where the first question, what should be done with the banks, links with the second, how to reignite the economy.
Under capitalism, those who provide capital, whether through bonds or equity, are supposed to oversee what is done with their funds; this accountability is what makes capitalism work. It is the system of incentives that underlies the success of a market economy. We tolerate a high degree of inequality in defence of these incentives – it is argued that high rewards are necessary to compensate for risk and to motivate responsible entrepreneurship.
In Ireland, as in much of the rest of the world, though, those who seemed to believe in markets, started to rewrite the rules in the midst of the crisis. They argued for the socialising of losses, while the gains had been privatised. Such a system of ersatz capitalism is doomed to failure, and is fundamentally corrupt and inequitable. Some argued that globally it was necessary to support the too-big-to-fail financial firms but this logic certainly doesn’t apply to relatively small institutions in a relatively small country at the cost of its citizens. There are alternatives.
Many Irish citizens now realise the cost of bailing out bondholders (whether in Germany, the US, the UK or even Ireland) is being borne by them. It is a massive, unjustified and unjustifiable redistribution of resources…
This is a noose around the country’s neck that will strangle it. It makes clear the IMF, ECB and Government must come to terms with imposing losses on the international lenders whose loose lending policies played a central role in the current crisis.
Debt restructuring is neither easy nor costless; but the costs are far less than the alternative. Argentina, after its debt restructuring, grew at an average annual rate of more than 8 per cent for six consecutive years until the global economic crisis hit. Ireland, with its talented people, its location, and the advantages provided by being in the EU, would be in an even better position.
After restructuring, Ireland would attract new banks and new firms that would see these fundamental strengths. In contrast, continued delay in dealing with the inevitable day of reckoning will cast uncertainty over the economy: so long as there is not debt restructuring, the country faces low growth, high taxes and/or low public services, a disgruntled labour force and citizenry that has been made, unfairly, pay for others’ mistakes.
And so long as there is not debt restructuring, economic risks of a highly levered economy and associated uncertainties of a future debt restructuring and its consequences will discourage investment, both domestic and foreign.
Those representing the interests of the lenders (bondholders) have, of course, a different view. They want to extract as much out of the Irish people as they can…
Would you like to know more?
- Video (via Broadsheet.ie – w/great tweet@Ciarán Cuffe): Nov. 11  (Bloomberg) — Jospeh Stiglitz, an economics professor at Columbia University, talks about the prospects for the Irish government’s austerity program. He speaks with Bloomberg’s Rishaad Salamat in Hong Kong.
- Bloomberg (text report on above) – Stiglitz Says Ireland Has Bleak Prospect of Cutting Deficit, Saving Banks
- Irish Examiner – Stiglitz: It’s criminal for NAMA to overpay for loans
- NAMA WineLake – Paddy McKillen v NAMA – Michael Cragg’s expert witness statement