A grim tale of things to come if Ireland keeps on floundering

 

OPINION:With economic ‘events’ unfolding faster than you can say ‘Germany’, some scary days might lie ahead

THE SCENE opens. It is early April 2010. We are in the Cabinet Room of Government Buildings for the weekly crisis meeting. Sitting at the table are the Taoiseach, Minister for Finance, various Ministers and the German ambassador.

German ambassador:Good morning everybody! Right . . . Let’s get going.

Taoiseach:Hey . . . that’s my job. I am in charge.

German ambassador:You think?

Taoiseach: Sorry, forgot.

German ambassador:No problem. It’s understandable. These things take getting used to. Right! Minister for Finance?

Minister for Finance:Yes Herr Ambassador. I am working on the next stability update for Berlin, sorry Brussels. We hope to have the deficit down to 3.5 per cent by 2013, but it’s not going to be pretty.

German ambassador: Very good . . .

Taoiseach: Can I just say something at this point?

German ambassador:If you must. I am trying to be understanding, but you must recognise that things have changed.

Taoiseach:Understood. It’s just I don’t think the people are going to wear this much longer.

German ambassador:And why not?

Taoiseach: Well it’s like this. We did what you told us – sorry, we took your advice last year and kept the deficit to 9.5 per cent. We whacked up taxes. Cut the guts out of expenditure . . .

German ambassador: Yah . . . and your point is?

Taoiseach: Well it has not exactly worked, has it?

German ambassador (with a trace of a smile): That depends on your point of view, my Irish friend.

Taoiseach: Well, from our point of view, it’s been a bit of a disaster . . . The economy is even more knackered than when we started. You also said that if we did what you told us then, we would retain the confidence of the bond markets and be able to borrow what we need.

Minister for Finance (jumping in): That’s right. And you said we might as well do it to ourselves because if we lost the confidence of the bond markets and had to borrow the money from you instead, you would make us do it anyway. And that would make us look even more useless and you look mean.

Taoiseach:We did everything you wanted and wrecked what was left on the economy. Now the bond markets will not touch us with a barge pole.

German ambassador (trying to contain a grin): Ah so! And you see this as a failure of the plan? You have much to learn about the the way of the world, my friends.

Taoiseach:What?

German ambassador: Some other time I will explain. Today, I am here for business. Does the Attorney General have the deeds for west Cork ready yet?

Attorney General: Yes, Herr Ambassador. The Bundesbank lawyers have looked them over and are satisfied as to the title.

German ambassador:Very good . . . shall we proceed?

Attorney General: Taoiseach . . . will you just sign here please?

Taoiseach (glumly): Okay.

Attorney General: Now Herr Ambassador, if you could just sign here and hand over the cheque that will be that.

German ambassador: Of course. What did we say again?

Attorney General: It was €20 billion Herr Ambassador. In return, you get west Cork, including fixtures, fittings and Bushes Bar in Baltimore.

But, as requested, we have excluded the county hurling team.

German ambassador (smiling again): Ah Bushes. So many happy memories. Angela, sorry Chancellor Merkle, is very fond of their toasted special sandwiches. I do hope that they will still be allowed sell them under German licensing laws . . . but that is for another day

German ambassador:Now we move on to your plans for economic recovery. What are you going to do with the money?

Minister for Finance: As I was saying, he hope to be back within the Maastricht guidelines by 2013. And as you want – sorry have suggested – we are really going to go for it this year.

If you thought we were harsh last year, wait till you see this year’s interim budget.

German ambassador:Very good.

Taoiseach: Look, I am sorry to keep going on like this but what happens if the same thing happens?

German ambassador: I am sorry. What do you mean?

Taoiseach:What if we overdo taxes and cuts and wind up doing more harm to the economy than good?

What are we going to do for money then?

German ambassador (grinning broadly): Ah so! Don’t worry my not-so-jolly Irish friends. There is always Kerry.

Ah Dingle. Ashes, McCarthys, fungi the dolphin, so many happy memories.

We would give you at least €25 billion for Kerry.

jmcmanus@irishtimes.com