For the past two years the government has been trying to perfect what one of my colleagues yesterday adaptly referred to as ‘spiv economics’; a spiv being a flashy con artist, who lives by his wits, making money by various dubious schemes where what’s on offer is not what it seems, and persuades people to reinvest in failing ventures. Government ministers have become skilled Del Boy’s, first offering the cheapest bank bailout in the state’s history, then a succession of recapitalisations, all the while stating with confidence that nothing was fundamentally wrong, that everything is alright, really, there’s no more surprises to worry about, and Ireland is a great place to lend to and invest in, and platitudes along the lines of ‘a bit of tweaking, some further investment, it’ll all come out lovely jubbly.’ Which all translates into: ‘This time next year, Rodney, we’ll be millionaires,’ followed by ‘he who dares, Rodney,’ as yet another scheme goes belly up.
The latest episode of the Irish version of Only Fools and Horses seems to have reached its high point sometime over the weekend, with various government ministers in full spin mode, trotting out a series of half-truths, evasions, bluster and double-speak in an effort to keep the illusion going that Ireland is, in fact, doing okay thanks very much, and the markets and our European colleagues are being irrational in thinking that we’re in serious trouble. The big problem for any con-artist is when the con becomes transparent. And when one con after another is exposed then you’re in real trouble. Listening to all the analysis, commentary and interviews on the radio, our spiv and spin economy seems well and truly exposed, and the government seem to be doing little more than trying to play the same spiv tactics over and over again.
Is there anyone in Ireland who still believes anything the government say with respect to our economic and banking situation? And we wonder why our European neighbours and the bond markets are jittery. The solution when spin is not only not working, but is exposed as little more than spin, is not more spin, as nothing fundamental changes, especially not our reputational crisis. What’s required now is straight answers to straight questions; endless denials and platitudes is not doing us any favours.