Ireland spent 37.3% of GDP on bank bailout costs

Ireland’s bank bailouts cost the country the equivalent of nearly 40% of its annual economic output, most of which it is unlikely to see again, new figures show.

The ECB publishedestimates of the direct cost to eurozone countries and Britain of supporting their financial sectors, chiefly banks, from 2008 to 2013, and how much of the money spent had gone into assets that might generate a return for governments.

Across the eurozone as a whole, direct support for lenders totalled 5.1% ofGDP by the end of 2013 — equivalent to just over €500bn — but this masked big differences between countries.

Ireland topped the chart, spending 37.3% of GDP, followed by Greece at 24.8% and Slovenia at 14.2%. France, Italy, Finland, Slovakia, and Estonia, by contrast, spent next to nothing on bank bailouts.

“The situation is very heterogeneous,” ECB researchers Henri Maurer and Patrick Grussenmeyer said.

Germany spent more than one-tenth of its annual output on supporting financial firms, similar to Portugal, while Britain spent just under 7% — less than Germany despite its larger financial sector.

The figures do not include the wider cost to European economies from slower growth and higher unemployment, which has pushed up government debt across the eurozone, as a whole, by more than a quarter as a share of GDP.

However, they do give some indication of how much of the money spent is likely to be seen again by taxpayers.

The news is bad for Irish and Greek citizens, as only a third to half of the money was used to acquire assets that could potentially generate a return, and instead was spent on bank recapitalisations and toxic assets.

For Ireland, this equates to a likely total loss equivalent to 25% of GDP. For Greece, the equivalent is 12.1% of economic output.

By contrast in Germany, Britain and the Netherlands, over two-thirds of financial support led to acquisition of valuable bank assets. Already these countries have been able to recoup some of the money spent during the crisis, the ECB paper said.

Britain has also been able to end loan guarantees, which peaked at a massive 34% of GDP in 2009, the ECB added.

Reuters

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