Minister Cullen was in Tramore last week for the opening of the Tesco store. He was impressed with the energy saving systems installed.
Perhaps Tesco will set a benchmark on how new or old companies investing in new buildings should optimise their use of energy, said the Minister, a point that we would have to agree on.
Given the bad state of public finances, saving energy should become a larger objective of Government strategy.
Afterwards the Minister was queried on the economy. He said that Ireland’s problems were different to that of the international economy. Liquidity was the main problem and he strongly defended the Government’s guarantee move.
If banks were not lending to each other, it would make it difficult for big business to borrow and that would trickle down to small business, where even a plumber or shopkeeper might find it hard to trade because of borrowing restrictions or cash flow problems.
Minister Cullen said the Government had to move to protect Ireland’s interests.
Since the bank guarantees were put in place other countries in Europe such as Greece, Austria and Denmark, decided to guarantee deposits. None to date have gone as far as Ireland in guaranteeing liabilities, for them that would be a step too far.
Here there seems to be public approval for this measure despite the risk to the taxpayer. A German bank nearly crashed over the weekend, until a Government aided rescue package kept it afloat.
This has hit financial markets again, there are probably a few more financially unstable firms out there in Europe that do not have Ireland’s special guarantee and are vulnerable.
More co-ordinated action may be needed by European Governments to make sure that some countries are not picked out and targeted by speculators.
It is a very ugly game at the moment, seeing financial institutions fall into trouble. More liquidity may need to be injected into the system and governments will have to come up with more guarantees.
A cut in the Euro interest rate needs to come soon as banks are likely to charge more to cover risk.
British banks were very upset at the Irish move last week. Some English papers called it economic nationalism. The affects are hitting Europe this week.
Ireland had to take action to save its financial system. It seems we were the first country to be really targeted and as a post colonist nation why not defend your interests.
European countries may have to pull together more to make sure that some nations are not destabilised. This is a real test for the European Union, will there be enough solidarity?
British criticism of Ireland seems rather ironic as they are not in the Euro. Some banks, like Ulster, operating in the Republic will be covered by the Irish guarantee scheme, having originally been excluded.
This is probably the worst financial crisis since the devaluations of the early nineties, which was later followed by the Irish boom.
The next phase in the crisis has yet to take place, where bankers may have to force borrowers, like builder developers, to offload land or property to pay off debts.
The Dublin area is reckoned to have the biggest valuation problem.
Now that the banks are prepared to write off certain asset values and perhaps some of their loans, the end of the property cycle could be reached.
There may be some tough medicine ahead on this front and will not be nice to watch, but the bad loans may be called in.
Minister Cullen also noted the budget difficulties. He saw the changed economic climate as difficult and that there needed to be adjustment, because the tax take was down.
The base of public expenditure is high, added the Minister, hinting that the announcements in the budget next week will be of significant gravity.
2008 will be a year that many of us will want to end soon as the tough medicine is administered.