THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND has upped the ante in the talks on a deal to split Ireland’s banking debts from its sovereign debts, calling on the Eurozone’s finance ministers to implement a previous agreement without delay.
The IMF’s latest quarterly update on Ireland’s progress under the bailout repeatedly refers to the deal reached by European finance leaders on June 29, when it was agreed that ministers would take whatever measures were necessary to split the banking burden from the sovereign one.
The report, published this afternoon, outlines that the best-case scenario for helping Ireland return to the bond markets is for the European Stability Mechanism to take an equity stake in Ireland’s banks – effectively meaning that the ESM would match the money invested in the banks by the Irish state, freeing up Ireland to take its own investment back out again.
In the report, the IMF writes that breaking the link between the banks and the state is the single most important task to “improve the sustainability of the well-performing adjustment programme”.
“Material investments in Irish banks by the ESM could transform the public debt outlook, cut the bank–sovereign link, and cement a needed win for Europe,” it bluntly states.
“More broadly, Ireland’s policy programme is sound and adjustment is being delivered, providing strong prospects for program[me] success. These would be improved by more benign market conditions and more effective policy action at the European level,” it later adds.
The report is positive about Ireland’s progress to date, halfway through the EU-IMF lending programme, and notes that Ireland’s deficit reduction plan was ahead of schedule by the end of July – but added that similar progress in 2013 could be undone by further financial risks.
The government had done commendable work and had ”restored policy credibility, but risks to outlook remain substantial,” the report said. “Ireland must continue to deliver on the many difficult steps needed to underpin a sustained economic recovery.”