Conor O’Kelly, chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency, said €24 billion was one of the largest amounts the country has had to borrow in a single year
Conor O’Kelly was speaking after the National Treasury Management Agency reached its target of €24 billion in borrowing for this year with the completion of the sale of two long term bonds yesterday at negative interest rates.
It means the investors that took on that debt are effectively paying the Irish government for holding it.
The borrowing target was increased from €14 billion at the start of this year to enable the Government to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic with supports for businesses, individuals who lost jobs and the wider economy.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, the NTMA chief executive said €24 billion was one of the largest amounts the country has had to borrow in a single year.
However, he said, the country now had the capacity and the ability to do that.
“You’ll remember 10 years ago, the Government was slamming the foot on the brakes. This time around, it’s putting the foot on the accelerator. We can afford to do it comfortably and sustainably,” the NTMA chief said.
Mr O’Kelly pointed to the much improved fiscal position as the country entered the Covid crisis, as well as the ECB policy of encouraging governments to borrow to offset the economic slowdown brought about by the pandemic as reasons for that.
He said the dramatic decline in our annual debt interest bill in the last five years had also contributed.
“Our annual interest bill in Ireland has fallen from €7.8 billion annually to less than €4 billion. To put that in perspective, that €4 billion is twice what it was in the mid 1980s, and yet our government revenue is ten times what it was.”
“Ten years ago, we couldn’t borrow any money for 30 days at any rate. Today, we’re borrowing money for 30 years at minimal rates,” he stated,
Mr O’Kelly said raising the national debt to €250 billion in the coming years was sustainable because of the actions of the ECB, which he said was giving European governments the time and the space to respond to the pandemic with ambitious spending programmes.
“The ECB is essentially underwriting the recovery from the pandemic right across Europe.
“They’re keeping the interest rate burden at a minimal level, but they’re also giving governments something more important, and that’s time to repair fiscal positions and national budgets with minimal dislocation,” he concluded.