Tuesday, 24 February 2009

To nationalise or not to nationalise ?

Sli Eile: Now that the inevitable draws near - questions are asked about how nationalisation of banking in Ireland would operate. It is timely to address this issue. Banking is at the heart of economy. At the heart of banking is trust. That trust has been shattered. Some of the fall-out is a dramatic fall in share values, a crises in credit lines to small and medium-sized enterprises and frightening and unknown levels of bad debt. Proceeding to nationalisation will carry huge risks and - if unaccompanied by a dramatic change in culture and governance - may only serve to spread the risk to taxpayers.

We urgently need a debate now - on what sort of public ownership and control is required. Some questions on which I would welcome discussion are:

how can a viable State Bank be created that will compete on the open market with other banks internationally while offering credit to businesses and individuals?
what forms of democratic control can be used to ensure representation by the whole community including those working in the financial industry?
how can bad debt be written down, transferred and ring fenced?
how would nationalisation work in the context of European law on competition?
what guarantees and compensation are in order for which types of shareholders - especially those many small holders who have been badly burnt by the behaviour of Banks such as Anglo-Irish?
What lessons can be learned from nationalisation in other jurisdictions?

Sli Eile is anonymous. Obviously.

1 comment:

Terry McDonough said...

I am afraid the ringfencing of the bad debt means all shareholders, even small ones will be wiped out. This is in fact pretty uncontroversial. The real problem is that the holders of the banks bonds must also be left holding the bag. Internationally economists and other commentators have been reluctant to target these people and calls for nationalization have been partly about mobilizing the state to protect them. This is not a good idea. Beyond this Ireland can't afford it. Nationalization must be accompanied by segregating the bad debt and *leaving it in private hands.*

Terry McDonough
NUIG