'FT' ranks Lenihan worst in Europe

Mon, Dec 6, 2010, 00:00

BRIAN LENIHAN has been named the worst finance minister in Europe for the second year running in the annual ranking of European finance ministers by the Financial Timesnewspaper.

In the fifth annual league table, the newspaper said that the problems faced by some countries proved simply too great to handle.

“Brian Lenihan was overwhelmed by the crisis in Ireland’s banking system and the implosion of the country’s economic growth,” said the newspaper.

Mr Lenihan, who ranked second-last in the newspaper’s 2008 survey, had been unable to restore market confidence in the banks, the newspaper said.

After taking responsibility for dud property loans and recapitalising the banks, he has “run out of policy tools” and the banking sector is back where it started – “facing a funding crisis and locked out of the debt market”, it said.

Mr Lenihan was forced to accept the €85 billion EU-led rescue package last month amid signs that the European Central Bank had reached “the limits of its largesse in providing financial institutions with liquidity”.

“Mr Lenihan could argue that an objective assessment of finance ministers is impossible: the impact of decisions taken now might not be seen for years; some events are beyond their control; economists fight over what is the best response to crises. But since when have talent shows been fair?” the newspaper said.

Out of 19 ministers assessed – some of the smaller countries were excluded – Germany’s Wolfgang Schäuble ranked best, owing to the strength of his economy.

UK chancellor George Osborne, who introduced a severe budget within weeks of taking office, took sixth position.

George Papaconstantinou of Greece – which along with Ireland is the only country to have been bailed out by the EU and IMF – came eighth, but was judged to have the best political skills after displaying “panache” in his handling of the country’s economic crisis.

The ministers were ranked by leading economists based on political ability, economic performance and credibility in the markets.