SBCI should be repurposed as a rainy day lender for Ireland’s SME sector

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SBCI should be repurposed as a rainy day lender for Ireland’s SME sector


The European Central Bank has guided that the low interest rate environment is set to continue in Europe until around this time next year at least. Stock image
The European Central Bank has guided that the low interest rate environment is set to continue in Europe until around this time next year at least. Stock image

Interest rates are starting to go up around the world – but not in this neck of the woods.

The European Central Bank, which controls interest rates here, has guided that the low interest rate environment is set to continue in Europe until around this time next year at least.

It has meant banks had no need of the SBCI’s cheap funding when it could just get the cheap money on the markets anyway, according to the SBCI chairman Conor O’Kelly. This would raise a big question mark about whether the SBCI – and the associated cost to the State – should be in existence at all.

The SBCI then branched into so-called risk-sharing, exposing the State to the risk of loans going bad. Now it’s one thing to do that when the country is in crisis but quite another when it’s roaring ahead.

Perhaps the way to look at the SBCI is like something of a rainy day fund for SMEs. It could be mothballed during the good times and brought out when needed.

For example, Brexit is one of the darkest clouds on the horizon for the Irish economy, and it makes sense to have the SBCI administer the State’s new Brexit loan scheme designed to help companies fend off the threat.

But we ought to think very, very carefully about whether the State should be taking on loan risk when the economy is growing.

Irish Independent

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