When it passed the TARP Bill authorising the Treasury Department to spend €700 billion to stabilise the US financial sector, Congress set up a Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) to oversee how the TARP money was spent. The COP is chaired by Elizabeth Warren, a law professsor from Harvard and has held regular hearings and issued monthly reports. This month’s report is “Taking Stock: What Has The Troubled Asset Relief Program Achieved?”
I bring this report to your attention for two reasons. Firstly, the COP report is a comprehensive and authoritative discussion of how the US government responded to the financial crisis and, since you’re sufficiently nerdy to already be reading this website, chances are it’s the kind of thing you’ll find interesting. Because its reports are long and sometimes a bit technical, Professor Warren also releases YouTube videos introducing them. These videos are a model of how to communicate complex economic ideas to the general public in a clear and unpatronising manner.
Secondly, in relation to NAMA, it is highly instructive to see how much independent oversight the TARP program is getting. The TARP funds represented about 5 percent of US Gross Domestic Product. In comparison, the estimated NAMA outlay of €54 billion which represents almost exactly one-third of Irish GDP as of the budget’s 2010 forecast. However, it appears to be highly unlikely that NAMA’s operations will be exposed to anything like the level of scrutiny that Professor Warren’s committee has brought to bear on TARP.
I seem to recall Minister Lenihan criticising those who wanted more oversight on the grounds that these demands suggested the opposition didn’t have faith in the staff or board of NAMA. To be honest, given the amount of economic mismanagement this country has had over the years, I think this lack of faith would be pretty well placed. But even if one did have faith, it seems perfectly appropriate that a plan to spend €54 billion should involve a few million spent on a thorough independent oversight.