JUST SHY OF the second anniversary of the Lehman collapse, the Irish government last week issued its latest plan for Anglo Irish Bank. It reveals how little Dublin – and most other governments – have learnt from the crisis.
Back then, there were good reasons to offer taxpayer crutches to toppling banks. Contagion could bring the system to its knees. Panic made market valuation useless: even solid banks looked wobbly on a mark-to-market basis. It made sense to tide them over until the insolvent institutions could be distinguished from the illiquid.
Uncertainty is now receding. Unhappily, what is emerging in Ireland is how staggering bank losses are. It is time to let them fall where they should: on unsecured creditors once shareholders are wiped out. But Irish leaders are prolonging the uncertainty in the hope that zombie banks will, Lazarus-like, come back to life.
Dublin has poured €23bn into Anglo. The new plan – to split deposits from a “recovery” bank with loans not yet transferred to the government – looks like another round of three-card monty. It does not clarify the final size of the hole to be filled (S&P thinks it can reach €35bn), and continues to make citizens protect bondholders from their own folly.