* Ireland to study Greek deal as part of bailout exit plans
* Finmin says budget will hit those who can afford it most
* Sees reasons to be optimistic about economy in 2013
By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, Nov 29 Ireland will scour the euro
zone's new Greek aid deal for anything that would help Dublin's
efforts to pull free from its own EU/IMF bailout as scheduled
next year, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said on Thursday.
Euro zone finance ministers and the International Monetary
Fund reached agreement this week to reduce Greece's debt by more
than 40 billion euros, through measures that included extending
the maturity of Athens' official loans.
Asked if Ireland would seek a similar extension, Noonan said
concessions given to Greece would be discussed with the
so-called troika of lenders on measures that could smooth its
exit from official funding under Dublin's 85 billion euro
"We're putting together a strategy for exiting from the
programme and the troika has promised to give us a policy paper
on the ways and means of exiting the programme and we're putting
a similar one up ourselves," Noonan told reporters.
"In that context, we'll evaluate everything that Greece got
and if there is something that can be of benefit to Ireland to
exit the programme, we'll push that as a policy point."
The troika comprises representatives of the European
Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central
Finland's finance minister Jutta Urpilainen said on
Wednesday she would consider lengthening loan maturities for
Ireland and Portugal if requested, following the moves to help
Noonan, who will detail 3.5 billion euros ($4.5 billion) of
austerity measures next week when he present his budget for
2013, said the package of tax hikes and spending cuts was almost
The budget will be Ireland's sixth austerity budget since
October 2008 and Noonan said while people were expecting a very
tough budget, the government would make sure it was fair and
would impact most on those who can afford it.
Data showing unemployment remained close to crisis-level
highs at 14.8 percent in the third quarter highlighted the tough
task he faces in trying to maintain some economic growth while
delivering more harsh medicine.
Noting that Ireland has had a "pretty good month" after
Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, and
utilities Bord Gais and ESB followed the Irish sovereign back
into capital markets, Noonan was positive on prospects for 2013.
"There's a lot of reason to be optimistic about the position
of the country. We would obviously like if our customer
countries registered higher growth rates because our model is
export-led growth," the minister said.
"But it looks as if the United States is building rapidly
again, it looks as if their budget crisis will be overcome, and
with the various arrangements that are being made in Europe, I
think we can look forward to a better year ahead."