NTMA recession warning: Let’s not fear the probable

NTMA recession warning: Let’s not fear the probable

Even though it’s more than a decade since Bertie Ahern harrumphed his infamous advice — “the boom is getting boomier” — the consequences of the madness epitomised by that phrase, and the “soft landings” and “naysayers” slapdowns too, remain chilling, almost as chilling as the idea that a person in his position could so misjudge reality. 

That memory must be especially sharp for any one of the hundreds of thousands of people still living with the legacy of that madness.

The evidence given by the head of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) Conor O’Kelly to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee yesterday must revive those memories. “I’ll give a prediction. The chances of a recession in Ireland are 100%,” he said. 

That admission though it inevitably provokes a pass-the-smelling-salts moment seems reassuring in its honesty. 

It was also bolstered by Mr O’Kelly’s suggestion that the nomination of Christine Lagarde to lead the European Central Bank will reinforce expectations of monetary policy easing which will further facilitate the management and refinancing of Ireland’s €205bn debt, among the highest per capita in the world.

Those judgements at least seem rooted in professional impartiality rather than partisan politics but the reality remains — we are vulnerable to economic forces beyond our control. 

How we cope is the overriding question and the answer must be: better and more equitably than the last time.

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