Irish companies and workers face more hidden borrowing shocks as Ireland slides reluctantly into accepting over €60bn in costly bailout cash from its eurozone partners and the IMF, senior European economists have warned.
The analysts – who also predict a general election will be called early in the new year – said Ireland was not only cut off from sovereign bond markets, but that a bailout would further undermine consumer spending, leading to cuts rising in the next four years above the €15bn amount already advertised by the government.
As Taoiseach Brian Cowen and finance minister Brian Lenihan insisted they planned to tough it out with Brussels and bond markets, one of Europe's leading bond market experts, Luca Cazzulani at UniCredit in Milan, said that this weekend looked like the "point of no return" for Ireland and the EU/IMF bailout.
"I do not see any strong reason why investors should start buying Irish bonds again. Portugal, I think, is in a slightly better position than Ireland, but the way things have deteriorated in the past week tells me that markets are going against both countries," said Cazzulani.
He said Ireland may still escape defaulting on its national debts if the Irish banks did not deliver more shocks. Irish sovereign bond rates fell on Friday, but Europe's senior bond experts dismissed officially-inspired talk that the falls were significant enough for Ireland to dodge an expensive bailout.
Jamie Dannhauser, senior economist at Lombard Street Research in London, warned that most Irish companies and the real economy here would be hit after the week of bond-market turmoil because the costs of borrowing for companies are directly linked to Irish sovereign rates.
Other senior sources talked this weekend about the "psychological damage" that follows economies going into sovereign bailouts.
Ben May, senior European economist at Capital Economics, said there was "a very high chance" that the cuts here would be more than €15bn. But he said bond markets would respond positively if after an early election a new government stayed in power over the next four years.
In other fast-moving events this weekend:
* The European Financial Stability Facility, the €440bn EU/IMF bailout fund headed by Klaus Regling, said it had "no knowledge" of the substance of the reports that bailout talks between Ireland and the Euro Group had already started. Regling was in Tokyo, a spokesman told the Sunday Tribune.
* Ireland would have to pick up the tab for all the costs of its own bailout, including the salary costs of the scores of EU and IMF staff, the cost to the German Finance Agency for issuing bailout bonds, computer facilities of the European Investment Bank, and the costs of the Luxembourg-based EFSF bailout fund.
* The Sunday Tribune has learned that the cost of the bailout cash would likely be closer to the annual 5% interest rate being paid by the Greeks.
* It would take up to two months to complete negotiations between Ireland and the EC in a legally-binding 'memorandum of understanding' from the time the bailout is requested, possibly influencing the timing of a general election.