American television network CNBC has angered Irish government officials and independent analysts here for claiming that Ireland is the most indebted nation on earth.
The network appears to be repeating international misinformation by lumping in the liabilities of all the banks here, including those in the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) which lend almost nothing to the domestic Irish economy.
It comes as finance minister Brian Lenihan plans to start on a road show of European capitals later this month to speak directly to economists and the people who trade Irish sovereign bonds. He will tell them that the government through the National Asset Management Agency has a plan to deal with the problems of the Irish domestic banks.
A slide presentation on the website of CNBC, the network that focuses on business and markets to an influential worldwide audience, claims that Ireland is the most in hock of 16 countries in the world.
Its slide countdown of what it calls the World's Biggest Debtor Nations, ranks Ireland as the No 1 most indebted, with an external debt stretching to over eight times the value of GDP. It also claims that citizens in the Irish Republic owe foreigners $549,819 each.
In February, the Sunday Tribune reported that Alan Ahearne, the NUI Galway lecturer, before his appointment as a special adviser to Lenihan urged the government to counteract international research circulating worldwide that purportedly showed the debts of the Irish banks towered 850% above the size of the economy, equivalent to over €1 trillion.
Economist Rossa White of Davys said that CNBC's figures appear to include the IFSC banks. "They do not appear to understand that we have one of the biggest fund administration businesses in Europe. Irish taxpayers do not have exposure to those liabilities."
The liabilities of the six banks guaranteed by the state here are among the highest in Europe but likely to be less than three times the value of GDP.
White said that the government will need to fight back by stressing that because Ireland attracts huge amounts of foreign direct investment that "all types" of economic statistics here were distorted.
A Department of Finance spokesman said: "The CNBC figures appear to include the liabilities of banks in the IFSC. That is all I can say."