Only a special kind of politician can sound increasingly assured and authoritative the more gibberish they regurgitate.
Bertie Ahern is a case in point. One could often be impressed by the ferocity of his feeling on an issue only to read a transcript of his speech and realise he was spouting random words in no particular order.
In this government, it is Brian Hayes who has taken over Bertie’s mantle because, even though he can at least string a sentence together, when he’s talking about the economy, the only thing he’s being economical with is the truth.
Mr Hayes, who is desperately trying to extricate himself from the doghouse he’s been confined too since he led the heave against Enda Kenny last year, has the uncanny knack of sounding ever more forceful the more fanciful his argument becomes.
Having apparently taken debating tips from Sepp “Crisis? What Crisis?” Blatter, Mr Hayes appeared on Drivetime [about 50 minutes in] this evening and it wasn’t long before the blathering began in earnest.
Asked why Finance Minister Michael Noonan had suddenly reduced the value of a cut in the bailout’s interest rate by approximately €300 million, from €450 million to only €150 million, Mr Hayes blamed anonymous “commentators” for any unfortunate confusion.
You see, those silly commentators had seen that the EU portion of the bailout was worth about €40 billion and had glibly assumed, “hey presto”, that a one per cent cut in the interest rate would yield €400 million.
This was all wrong, he said, because the government has already drawn down €15 billion, at the higher 5.8 per cent rate, leaving only €25 billion in the pot. And anyway, he revealed, we’re not even going to get a one per cent reduction in the interest rate – it’s only going to be 0.6 per cent, equivalent to the Portuguese rate.
“Some people were over-egging the total amount of money Ireland could save…some people within the commentariat were over-emphasising the degree to which savings could apply,” he fumed.
Primarily guilty of this charge, it seems, is his own Finance Minister – who, judging by the many statements he’s made on the matter, is the foremost commentator in the country.
As recently as last month, in response to a question from Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath, Mr Noonan himself used the contentious €450 million figure (h/t @namawinelake).
“The total amount of funding available from the EU and the IMF is €67.5 billion, €45 billion of which comes from the EU through the EFSM, the EFSF and the bilateral loans. For illustrative purposes, the saving arising from a one per cent reduction on the interest rate charged on the full €45 billion available from EU sources would be €450 million for each full year borrowed.
“If this €45 billion was held for an average 7.5 years, i.e. the term envisaged in the programme, the total saving would amount to €3.375 billion,” he said.
While Mr Hayes would have us believe that the government has been slaving away, working hard to try to convince the French to cut the interest rate by 0.6 per cent, this admission represents yet another embarrassing capitulation from this invertebrate administration.
On March 23, speaking a matter of weeks after the formation of the 31st Dáil, Mr Noonan told the House that a one per cent cut in the interest rate had already been agreed and it was merely a matter of implementation, which would occur quite rapidly.
“It’s actually agreed by the 27 [EU member states] that there’ll be a one per cent reduction, and then we have the interventions of what quid pro quo Ireland will give, but there’s actually no quid pro quo written into the communiqué.
“There is an actual reduction in the price of monies drawn from the ESF (European Stability Fund), and Ireland is the only one drawing down. So I would hope this would be resolved in the coming weeks,” he said.
One wonders if that communiqué was in writing and, if so, if Mr Noonan still has it.
Speaking the following month, Mr Noonan went even further and said that the reduction to the bailout rate would be backdated to when it was agreed – at the first EU Summit that new Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended in March.
So, even if money was drawn down from the bailout pot,Irelandwould be refunded any additional interest that was paid – over and above the 4.8 percent rate that had, allegedly, been agreed. [I have expanded on this in a separate blog post]
Fast forward a mere two months and Mr Hayes grew ever shriller as Mary Wilson, quite reasonably, queried why the government was making such a spectacular u-turn on this issue.
In a bizarre turn of events, he said the main priority now is to protect the country’s 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate – something that, up until now, nobody thought was in any real danger.
After all, the Fianna Fáil led government was doing a perfectly good job of maintaining our corporate tax rate, by sitting on its hands and doing nothing while the rest of the economy went to hell in a handcart.
But no, it appears there was more to it than that. Like this administration, the previous government was working but doing it so subtly that nobody actually noticed.
Mr Hayes now tells us that the government has to “punch clever”, “negotiate on a bilateral and multilateral level” and “keep pressing the case for Ireland” to save the corporate tax rate, and the 250,000 jobs it supports, from Sarkozy’s greedy claws.
Stressing the fact that Ireland is the best little bailed-out country of the bunch, Mr Hayes said we are “hitting our [bailout] targets in a comfortable way”.
I suppose the gouging of wages and services, not to mention skyrocketing unemployment levels, are comfortable from Mr Hayes’ perch in government but, for the rest of us, who prefer to inhabit reality, things don’t feel too great.
“I’m absolutely confident that the action we’re taking is the right action to correct the deficit, to grow the economy, to restructure the banks …it’s the right action…absolutely confident,” he concluded.
You believe him, don’t you?