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Luck of the Irish
News From Around the World
Monday, November 22, 2010
Ed DeShields

Ireland is small country with a big debt problem.  Today, it reluctantly asked for help from the European Union to keep it from economic collapse and at the same time announced the dissolution of its Parliament.

I love the Irish people.  They’re clever and smart and a bit confident by nature.  I love doing business with them because you always know where you stand and they deliver.   I hate their national brew; Guinness.  I’d rather drink dirty water. 

Contrary to popular belief the term “luck of the Irish” is sarcasm for the “unlucky” Irish.   When they arrived to America after the potato famine they were very disliked and often treated badly.  They were despised and hated.  Hence, when the Irish had any kind of success most Americans at the time didn't think the Irish were capable such successes, so they called it luck. Hence the colloquialism "Luck of the Irish".

Ireland and the EU finally reached an economic bail-out figure;  €130 billion.  Hope was that the Irish bailout would calm tensions in other economies in the European Union.  But, Portugal is also clearly suffering from a fear that the Irish problem will explode into an uncontrollable EU emergency that it can’t cure. 

Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado reiterated that her country won't require external financial assistance to lower its budget gap or fix its finances.  Good luck Senora.  Spain's stock market closed down 2.7% today, while Portugal's headed 1.4% lower.  After confirmation that Ireland will be bailed out, the markets are asking if the time has come to rescue Portugal, and eventually Spain or Italy. 

The world is intensely worried that Ireland's crisis will soon spread to consume the entire EU.  Portugal's cost to insure the bonds that protect them against default suddenly soared.  Similar insurance costs for Spain, Greece and Ireland also leaped.  The €750 billion Euro European Financial Stability Facility was set up in May as a financial lifeline for the rest of the euro region after Greece needed an emergency bailout of three-year loans from the EU and IMF of €110 billion euros.

The cost of a bailout for Portugal, seen as the next weakest link among the EU’s high-deficit countries, would cost €100 billion euros.  For Spain, whose banks have also come under terrific strain from the collapse of its real-estate bubble would cost at least €632 billion Euros.  For Italy, the region’s second-most indebted nation after Greece, the figure would be €912 billion Euros.

It doesn’t take a mathematics genius to calculate the potential carnage facing the EU.  This crisis will severely test the capacity of the EU and the International Monetary Fund.  In the short term, the bailout may succeed in limiting the fear from spreading throughout the rest of Europe (if, political turmoil doesn’t upset the apple cart).  But it offers Ireland no easy way out.  It will likely leave the country with a worse debt position at the same time that the accompanying new taxes and spending cuts will undermine growth, raising the risk that an ultimate debt restructuring may be needed.  Or a total default.    

How the euro zone prepares for that possibility is dependent on its long-term future and, unfortunately to the “Luck of the Irish”. 

About Ed DeShields

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