Cowen stresses role of Nama in aiding economic recovery


Failure to implement the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) will condemn Ireland to a period of “economic stagnation or worse,” Taoiseach Brian Cowen said today.

Speaking at the end of the two-day meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party at the Hodson Bay Hotel near Athlone, Mr Cowen said that the Nama project had been designed to deal with the crisis in the banking sector while keeping the interests of the taxpayer in mind.

Ahead of tomorrow afternoon's Dáil debate on Nama, Mr Cowen emphasised that the European Central Bank had approved the Nama approach and was supporting the initiative.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan will outline to the Dáil the overall amount Nama will pay to take over impaired loans from the banks.

Mr Cowen also stressed the need for a Yes vote to the Lisbon Treaty to safeguard Ireland’s economic future. “In times of difficulty we need all the support we can get,” he added.

The Taoiseach said the two-day party meeting had been thorough and positive. “All of us are agreed and united on our duty to take the actions necessary to ensure economic recovery,” he said.

Earlier today, Mr Cowen once again refused to discuss the valuation Nama will place on the €90 billion in loans which are to be purchased from covered financial institutions. However, he stressed that taxpayers would benefit over time from the scheme.

"When we come to the second stage of the debate Brian Lenihan will set out in detail how it is we intend to ensure the restructuring of the banking system to facilitate bringing this country back to growth and extend credit and get people to continue doing their business," Mr Cowen said on RTÉ radio.

"What we are making sure is that the IOUs which will be provided by the agency enables the bank to get access to credits from the Central Bank and over a period of time, in the years ahead, we will ensure that the value comes back into those assets and we ensure that the taxpayers interests are protected," he added.

Mr Lenihan said yesterday he was confident the Nama Bill would be passed by the Dáil because of the collaboration between the Coalition partners.

Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly Sean Fleming today called for the Bill to be altered to remove the Minister for Finance from the decision-making process on the value of loans being purchased by the agency. Mr Fleming also said disputes on valuations should be decided by the courts.

“I have absolute confidence in Brian Lenihan, but down the line there could be a Labour Minister or a Fine Gael Minister who has been hostile to this process all along,” he said. “I want to ensure that the Minister, who ever it is, has no role in the valuation process. That will reassure the public.”

Under the proposed legislation, banks will be entitled to appeal the prices paid for loans by the agency to a valuation panel which will report to the Minister.

Department of Finance officials said last night the Nama scheme would be among the most complex plans ever introduced by government. Eight separate agencies were involved yesterday in finalising details on the valuation that the assets agency will place on the loans that will be bought from covered financial institutions.