Speaking today on the Strategic Banking Corporation Bill 2014 at second stage, Sinn Fein Senator Kathryn Reilly said that the Bill could have been much stronger.
“We believe this Bill could have been much stronger and better designed. It is six years into this economic crisis and three years into the life of this government, yet suddenly, we are told this Bill needs to be rushed through the Dáil and Seanad before the summer break.
“My party objects strongly to this abuse of the guillotine and believe this Bill is important enough to merit proper scrutiny. In the Dáil, they only reached the first couple of amendments before the guillotine was used.
“Sinn Fein has been arguing for a stimulus package consistently as part of our vision for bringing about a real and sustainable recovery. To that extent we welcome this shift to our way of thinking even if it has come very late in the day.
“We have very serious concerns about the content of this Bill, however. The Programme for Government very clearly stated that the government would establish a “Strategic Investment Bank”. Where stands that commitment now?
“Instead, what we are getting is a company which will lend from a German Bank, then lend to Irish banks in the hope they will lend to SMEs and others.
“The government line seems to be to trust the banks. That’s unrealistic given events of the past few years. There should be strong safeguards in place. Banks not passing on cheaper credit in an equitable way should be punished.
“The Bill also allows for billions of taxpayer’s money to be spent as a guarantee without Dáil approval. A more accountable method needs to be put in place.
“The Bill rightly focuses on the SME sector; the most important sector in terms of employment. Prominent economists have speculated on the likely outcome of the unravelling of SMEs overburdened with debt. The Central Bank has set targets for the banks to deal with this issue but unlike the Mortgage Arrears targets the SME debt restructuring targets are kept secret. That should change. They should be published and banks who are not doing enough named and shamed.
“As a firm believer in stimulus and state led investment my party is disappointed in the lack of ambition behind this project and the lack of detail in the Bill. What we need is a State Bank lending to the real economy. Nevertheless, I welcome the shift in thinking that this Bill will hopefully help bring about.”