Colm’s Sindo wide ranging column this week takes NAMA and the disposal of its assets as its focus but also calls for an inquiry into several important matters. From the piece:
Viewed from behind the desk of an international investor with plenty of options around the world, this is not a pretty picture. The reputation of the country has been damaged and the perception created that Ireland is suffering from an acute outbreak of crony capitalism.
This may be unfair but perception is what matters and the perception needs to be altered decisively if foreign investors are to be re-assured. The sheer scale of the capital inflows required means that portfolio investors new to this country need to be involved on a massive scale. These people are perfectly entitled to be cautious about committing funds to a small country which must appear to them to tolerate a dodgy business and political culture.
In the circumstances the Government must focus on rebuilding reputation and has consciously made this a priority. There are other positives — the Irish commercial courts are seen as thoroughly independent and quite prepared to find against local interests, including the State, should the law and the facts point in that direction.
But progress has been slow under several headings. Four years after the emergence of the banking crisis, and given clear evidence of malpractice in some banks, there has been no definitive inquiry into their governance and behaviour, in particular no review of bank-by-bank lending policies in the years when the damage was done. Despite evidence in the public domain of insider lending, balance sheet window-dressing and share-support operations in some banks, no prosecutorial actions have been taken.
The referendum on restoring investigative powers to the Oireachtas was lost through a weak government campaign, but a parliamentary inquiry is nonetheless desirable. It should cover the Quinn Insurance affair as well as the banking collapse and should delve further into the failures of regulators and the mistakes made in the policy response. A well-resourced inquiry should be seen as helping to restore the country’s reputation.