Exasperated, Pat Kenny asked on Frontline Monday night, why the several billions we've put into the banks to buffer against consumer insolvency, hasn't yet been used? Nobody answered the question. Given that the IMF has been unequivocal in its view that no domestic economic recovery can occur without first tackling consumer insolvency, it remains the burning question of our time.
Four years into the crisis and why do we not have yet a non-judicial and modern insolvency process? The answer is simple and grubby; those at the top simply didn't care. Insolvency doesn't affect them, only the private sector and the low paid in the public sector. Instead they are snuggly quarantined within the ruling pale buttressed by the Croke Park Agreement. This lethargy and lack of urgency at the top is helped enormously when fear and ignorance is spread by the high priests of moral hazard, those who feel threatened by the scale of insolvency that includes banks and their right wing protectorate in the media.
But now that the Insolvency Bill, which is joined at the hip to the Troika bailout, has arrived, the objective of this hard right cluster is to render it toothless, a mere box ticking exercise that releases the minimum amount of funds into the maw of the consumer insolvency crisis. Let's hope they fail.
The key performance indicator for economic recovery will be the number of debt settlement and insolvency agreements that will be lodged with the proposed Insolvency Service attached to the Dept of Justice. But without robust Central Bank adjustment of the Code of Conduct for banks, compelling them to fairly engage with Insolvency Trustees and the creation of an Ombudsman to arbitrate on disputes between debtors and creditors, the Irish economy is directionless, propelled forward by exports but dragging, on the sea floor, a domestic economy deeply anchored in the silt of unresolved consumer debt. Getting it right isn't just about economic recovery, it's also about recovery from trauma.
Nobody is measuring it, but the impact of prolonged exposure to open-ended and overwhelming indebtedness is mauling Irish society by destroying family cohesion and happiness and, in many cases, leading to separation and suicides. Further delay is intolerable because, not only is it economically stupid but because it is inflicting horrendous wounds on thousands of Irish families.