By JAMIE SMYTH
Indebted states must take tough fiscal action to satisfy markets, says Cowen
TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has warned global markets will not be satisfied by offers of EU financial support unless indebted states take tough domestic action to get their own public finances in order.
In a question and answer session with business leaders in Dublin yesterday, Mr Cowen said Greece needed to follow his Government’s example and cut debt.
“We have had to take dramatic decisions in relation to our fiscal difficulties. I believe that Ireland has been showing the flexibility to adjust quickly – even more than other euro zone economies,” said Mr Cowen in a speech to the Trilateral Commission, a high level group of business, academic and political leaders meeting at a hotel in Dublin.
Asked by former Federal Reserve chairman and economist Paul Volcker – a key adviser to US president Barack Obama – about the difficulties facing the euro zone, Mr Cowen said EU solidarity could not restore confidence alone. He said the most important lesson learned during the economic crisis was the need to act quickly to regain credibility.
Mr Cowen said it had been very difficult, in the face of understandable anger and worry, to communicate with the public about what were very complex issues. He said this needed to be addressed on an ongoing basis, but insisted the Government would follow through with its planned cuts.
“We have also made clear our absolute determination to take further measures in the coming years to complete the fiscal adjustment required.”
THE TRILATERAL COMMISSION A BODY THAT VALUES PRIVACY
The Trilateral Commission is a private organisation founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller, the current patriarch of the Rockefeller dynasty. It aims to foster closer co-operation between the US, Japan and Europe and its recent focus has been to debate the financial crisis. It held its plenary session in Dublin, which was chaired yesterday by Prof Richard Conroy and Ireland’s former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland.
At yesterday’s plenary session journalists were only welcome to attend Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s speech. They were also told not to approach conference members and copies of the programme were confiscated from the press.
Attendance lists were not distributed to the media.
By RONALD QUINLAN
No crisis for Cowen as he keeps the economic big-wigs waiting
IT draws its membership from the ranks of the world’s most powerful political and business leaders. Its private deliberations are widely held to inform the decisions of governments across the globe, from Washington to Beijing.
So when it comes to making a good impression on the Trilateral Commission, it probably didn’t help Ireland’s cause very much that Taoiseach Brian Cowen showed up half an hour late to deliver the opening address to its annual plenary meeting as it got under way last Friday at Dublin’s Four Seasons Hotel.
Among the 200 delegates left waiting patiently for Mr Cowen’s grand entrance were the former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger as well as the chairman of US President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, Paul Volcker.
While a spokesman for the Taoiseach insisted that he had arrived less than 10 minutes late, the Sunday Independent timed his entrance at 2.50pm — some 35 minutes after he was due to deliver his address to the assembled delegates.
Clearly conscious of the highly influential audience he was speaking to, Mr Cowen made a concerted effort in his speech to distance Ireland’s economy from that of Greece and the other EU countries currently coming under attack by the markets, claiming, for instance, that we had enjoyed “first-mover advantage” by taking early and decisive action in 2008 as the global financial crisis had begun to unfold.
As former chairman of the US Federal Reserve under both presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, Paul Volcker, for one, appeared to be unconvinced.
Mr Volcker took the opportunity to question the Taoiseach on the future of the EU and the euro.
“You’re not in favour of more centralisation as I understand it, although other people are, but what does this crisis mean for how Europe moves ahead?”
Responding to Mr Volcker, the Taoiseach conceded that the euro faced problems with its credibility.
Commenting on what the EU intended to do to address that deficiency, Mr Cowen said that finance ministers would be reviewing what he described as “present arrangements” in the coming months to see how they could be improved “in a way that would add credibility to the currency and in a way that would meet with wide popular agreement”.
The Taoiseach acknowledged that countries such as Germany had left open the prospect of proposing further treaties to amend the eurozone’s rules, but cautioned that these would be “easier said than done”.
Among the Irish contingent present at the meeting were the Trilateral’s European chairman Peter Sutherland, former Taoiseach John Bruton, the former chairman of Bank of Ireland Richard Burrows, the former chairman of AIB Dermot Gleeson and Conroy Diamonds chief Dr Richard Conroy.
Also in attendance were the former Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten and the former Conservative Party MP Leon Brittan.