Ireland’s decision to exit the troika programme will not undermine the Government’s determination to get borrowing figures under control, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
Promising that he will not “let slip” the progress made, Mr Kenny said ministers will have “to watch their ps and qs’ about their own departments’ spendings. However, he confidently defended the decision to quit the programme without the €10 billion credit line that was spoken about by Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan two months ago.
"It is a very clear, positive and confident decision and we are very happy about it," he declared after attending a meeting of the British-Irish Council in Jersey today. "Life itself is a risk. Everything in politics is. From our point of view the decision was clear," he told The Irish Times.
The Government’s medium-term strategy will be published on December 16th – a day after the “invasive, deep analysis” of the three-year-long programme ends, the Taoiseach said. Still being worked on, the document will focus on continuing to improve Ireland’s competitiveness, along with encouraging people to start their own businesses.
“Forty four per cent of young people want to start their own companies, but only 4 per cent do. We really want to make a big shift in this,” he declared. “All they need is to get rid of the culture where if you set up a company and it doesn’t work that you should be out. You start again,” he declared.
The Taoiseach rejected suggestions that the Government had backed away from taking a credit line because of the concessions that would be demanded in return by fellow European Union states. Minister Noonan, he said, had taken observations, advice and the political views expressed in Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington, and brought them back to the Cabinet.
“But the Minister for Finance never made a request to any of the institutions for a precautionary credit line,” he said. “There was never a formal request made for a precautionary credit line – formal, or informal. We never got around to the point where we said if we were to do this this might apply.
“It is not that anything changed, it is that things evolved. Things evolved to a point where we have been very clear that, given the circumstances, we are in now – the opportunity in terms of interest rates, a rising sense of confidence in some sectors, a recognition of where this could go – [we could] make a decision,” he said.
Seeming to dismiss doubters, Mr Kenny said: "You will have all of the theorists and all of the experts saying this is what you should do, or that is what you should do in Government. We set out to make our decision, by an Irish Government in respect of our circumstances in Ireland and that is what we did."
Insisting upon the Government’s determination to repair Ireland’s finances, he said: “The message we want to send out is that there is no change in attitude from the Government.”
Following the ending of the bailout programme on December 15th, the Government starts “on the 16th of December with the same motivation, with the same attitude, the same strategy that we have had”.
“We are going to continue to make decisions and move on and build on the progress that we have made with our people and better times ahead,” he declared.
Commitments given to the troika, such as the one to sell Bord Gáis Éireann, will be honoured: “Yes, we will follow through on the commitments that we have made. The decision about BGE is relatively imminent. Obviously, they are assessing the tenders that are in there for that and that sale will go through,” he went on.
“When we get to the 15th of December the programme end and we start on the 16th of December with the same motivation, with the same attitude, the same strategy that we have had up until now,” he said.