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Nobel prize economist Joseph Stiglitz urges deal on Irish bank debt

October 1, 2012 Irish Independent
Nobel prize-winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz called for Ireland to be given a break on its crippling bank debts and said it was "very wrong" that they had been "forced" on the country in the first place.

His comments to the Irish Independent came after a Dublin speech where he railed against the EU's austerity drive and insisted Europe must radically change if the financial crisis was to be ease.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who also spoke at last night's event and defended his Government's policies, will raise the bank debt issue at a meeting of European leaders this week.

Ireland has been battling for a reprieve on the way it financed Anglo Irish Bank's €30bn rescue and close to €30bn more it bumped into AIB, Bank of Ireland, and Permanent TSB.

Hopes of a breakthrough took a hammering last week when the Finance Ministers of France, Finland and Holland suggested new EU ways of bailing out banks shouldn't be used for "legacy" issues (like Ireland's).

"I think one way or another you [Ireland] should be helped," Prof Stiglitz said. "It was wrong, very wrong, for them [the international authorities] to have forced you to take that debt ...

"It was the private sector [that created the debt]."

Critical

In his address to the International Bar Association, Prof Stiglitz was critical of the austerity measures, or cutbacks, being made in Europe and the US in a bid to solve the economic crisis.

"Austerity has almost never worked," he said, pointing out that past experience showed spending cuts usually turned a downturn into a recession, and a recession into a depression.

Ireland has seen some of the harshest austerity measures in Europe, with spending cuts totalling about €10bn on the cards for the four years from 2011 to 2014.