The Christmas holidays came to an abrupt end this week, as the fairy lights and aroma of pine needles was replaced once again with the daily diet of austerity and bailouts.
And having spent a few weeks reading “year-in-review” pieces, we need to change our focus as readers once again.
So when a Citibank economist says we need to prepare for a second bailout, or when Michael Noonan says such talk is a ‘ludicrous’ notion, we need to realise that they are not talking to us.
There is are whole swathes of diplomatic and economic statements that, whilst made in public for all the world to hear, are actually directed at a very narrow audience.
The Citi economist’s note is one such message.
In expressing concern for Ireland’s financial state, Citi is (by accident or design) protecting its own interests.
Having a second bailout in place just in case may not just be good for the Irish economy; it might protect Citi from another wave of write-downs. It’s an understandable maneuver from a company trying to cover its own back.
What is unusual is Noonan’s bullish response. Citi’s feint gave him the opportunity to appear sanguine, to calm the markets by saying that the Irish program was on track and that the government would continue to behave responsibly, and if in the unlikely event that a second bailout was needed, it would be handled in an orderly fashion.
Instead, Noonan went on the attack – head buried firmly in the sand, the muffled word “ludicous” could be heard emanating from him, swiftly followed by “fully funded until 2013”. The nation shivered.
Both have made mistakes – Citi were in some ways unwise to put their head above the parapet, and Noonan was unwise to take the bait.
But whereas Citi are well within their writes to release such a note, Noonan has a greater responsibility.
In times of crisis, the markets resemble nothing more than a confidence trick; in deciding to take the path of denial travelled by the previous imbecellic Fianna Fail administrations, Noonan has essentially told them nothing has changed.
And unless our rhetoric changes, our interest rates will remain over 8% as the markest are saying they don’t trust our politicians to sort this mess out.
And neither should we.