December 1, 2010 / 5:32 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-IMF and EU put Ireland on tight leash

 * Ireland faces quarterly reviews by creditors
 * Dublin to look at privatising energy assets
 * Subordinated bondholders in banks targeted
 * Government sticks to growth forecast for next year
(Adds details, economist comment)
 By Carmel Crimmins and Paul Hoskins
 DUBLIN, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Ireland faces years of scrutiny
and strict outside controls in return for an 85 billion euro
($111 billion) bailout from the International Monetary Fund and
its European Union partners, details of the package showed on
 Prime Minister Brian Cowen agreed to an emergency
three-year aid package on Sunday in a last ditch bid to shore
up the country's financial sector and help halt fears Ireland's
debt troubles could spread into the euro zone.
 Under the deal, hammered out over 10 days in Dublin as the
government fended off criticism for sacrificing national
sovereignty, Ireland will have to give its creditors weekly
updates on spending and revenue, according to a memorandum of
understanding released by Ireland's finance ministry.
 It will also have to introduce a "Fiscal Responsibility
Law" with annual spending ceilings by the end of next year.
 "We have been through a traumatic two years. Of course, we
would have preferred to avoid resort to external assistance.
But we can emerge from it a stronger and fitter economy,"
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan told parliament.
 The IMF/EU deal has a detailed timeline for shrinking and
recapitalising banks and getting the budget deficit under
control, but analysts warned a general election likely early
next year could hold things up -- something markets will not
have much patience for.
 "The risk is that around an election there would be some
delay in the progress in some of these areas, and this (MOU)
clearly points toward the need to push things forward," said
Austin Hughes, chief economist with KBC Ireland.
 A new government of the centre-right Fine Gael party and
the centre-left Labour party looks set to take over from
Cowen's administration, and while they agree with the overall
fiscal targets, they have said they will re-negotiate some of
the measures.
 But in practice, they will have little room for manoeuvre.
 For factboxes on the fiscal, structural and banking reforms
to be implemented, double click on [ID:nLDE6B027W]
[ID:nLDE6B01XW] [ID:nLDE6B0284]
 A disastrous property bubble triggered Ireland's financial
crisis, bringing its banks to the brink of collapse and
creating a huge hole in the public finances, which were overly
reliant on property-related taxes.
 A massive bill for propping up its banks will blow
Ireland's deficit to an eye-watering 32 percent of gross
domestic product this year compared with budget surpluses
during the heady years of the "Celtic Tiger" economy.
 Ireland is overhauling its tax system and pushing through
tax increases and cutbacks totaling 15 billion euros as part of
a four-year plan to get its deficit under control that will
include a new property tax to be introduced in 2012 and
increased in 2013.
 Cowen and Lenihan need to pass the 2011 budget, set to be
the toughest on record, in order to qualify for the first
installment of funds from the EU and IMF and bilateral loans
from the UK, Sweden and Denmark.
 Lenihan said the IMF and the EU were endorsing measures set
out in the four-year strategy, but their powers are
 Dublin must consult with the IMF, the EU and the European
Central Bank if it wants to adopt policies that are
inconsistent with the deal.
 The central bank will be assessed by the IMF, an
independent budgetary advisory council will be established and
any unplanned revenue will be channeled toward debt reduction.
 Under the agreement, Ireland will look at possibly selling
its energy and gas assets and will make holders of bank
subordinated debt pay for part of the bailout costs through
discounted buybacks, which the memorandum said would start by
the end of March next year.
 In his speech to parliament, Lenihan reiterated that senior
bondholders in banks would not be forced to pay up given the
opposition of the ECB.
 "The strongly held belief among our European partners is
that any move to impose burden sharing on this group of
investors would have the potential to create a huge wave of
further negative market sentiment towards the euro zone and its
banks system," he said.
 Lenihan confirmed the government's forecast for GDP to
expand next year by 1.75 percent despite the European
Commission saying on Monday that it expected Ireland to grow at
just 0.9 percent next year.
 The EC expects Ireland to grow by 1.9 percent in 2012
compared with a government forecast of 3.25 percent and has
given Dublin an extra year, until 2015, to control its budget
  ($1=.7639 Euro)
  (Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy and Noah Barkin;
Editing by Ruth Pitchford and Padraic Cassidy)

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