Belfast Telegraph

Terms of bailout 'can be changed'

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Europe have backed the Programme for Government and given the coalition the green light to make changes to the terms of the multi-billion bailout.

After meeting officials from the IMF - including Ireland mission head Ajai Chopra - European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission (EC), Finance Minister Michael Noonan said it was agreed the terms of the rescue deal would be altered, as long as the financial targets remain the same.

"What was being discussed in general terms was our proposal that the conditions and the memorandum of understanding would be changed for alternative conditions which are in the Programme for Government," Mr Noonan said.

"And they have agreed to that principle. The detail then of the change will be discussed subsequently."

The talks were a forerunner to the first formal review of the international bailout deal next month.

Mr Noonan said the teams did not object to reversing the one euro cut in the minimum wage devised by the previous government.

One meeting was held with Klaus Masuch from the ECB and Istvan Szekely, the EC's director of economic and financial affairs, while a second was attended by Jurgen Stark, an ECB executive board member.

Mr Noonan, flanked by Public Service Reform Minister Brendan Howlin who also attended the meetings, said the IMF and European officials accepted the Government should delay putting an extra 10 billion euro into the banks until the results of stress tests at the end of the month are revealed.

The Finance Minister said: "In terms of where elements of the Programme for Government fit the bailout package, they were certainly very pleased. Particularly with the fiscal targets."

In a joint statement the IMF, ECB and Commission said the meetings were "an important input into next month's review mission."

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