| 8.5°C Dublin

DAN WHITE SAYS: As IMF's Chopper hits town, what should Noonan do?

Ajai Chopra will present Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin with a detailed shopping list of spending cuts and tax increases. We will have little option but to accept his demands. In return the Irish ministers must insist Europe shoulders some of the burden of the Irish banks' losses.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at this morning's meeting between Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin on the Irish side and 'Chopper' Chopra representing the IMF. Today is the day the Irish ministers will learn that, with the Irish state still needing to borrow more than €17bn this year, all of their election promises count for nothing.

Chopper is the one calling the shots now. Even after four savage budgets the Irish government is still spending more than €1.50 for every euro it collects in taxes, a fact Chopra will, no doubt ever so politely, remind the two ministers of.

So what will Chopra be demanding -- he would no doubt describe them as "requests" -- from the Irish ministers? With over two-thirds of government spending going on public sector pay and social welfare, he will be looking for further significant cuts under these headings.

The fact that, even after recent cuts in public sector pay and reductions in social welfare rates, we still have the best paid bureaucrats in Europe and our welfare rates are more than twice those in either Britain or Germany, means Noonan and Howlin will have little choice but to give Chopra most of what he wants.

Fine Gael and Labour's plan to reverse the €1 cut in the minimum wage is also a likely casualty of today's meeting. This measure was included in last December's budget at the insistence of our new masters, the EU and the IMF. While both parties promised to reverse the minimum wage cut, that's their problem, not Chopra's.

Although the Irish ministers will be forced into some humiliating U-turns, they should insist on getting something in return.

That something is an agreement that the EU and other member countries shoulder some of the burden of the Irish banks' losses. German banks alone have an exposure of more than €150bn to Ireland. If something were to, ahem, happen, to the Irish banks it would blow a huge hole in the balance sheets of many UK and mainland European banks.

You scratch our backs and we'll scratch yours, Chopper.