Ireland out of intensive care, but still looks sickly

The announcement that Ireland has officially exited the €85bn bail-out programme set up by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund at the height of the eurozone crisis “is reason to begin to hope again”, says Fergus Finlay in the Irish Examiner.

Yet this doesn’t mean that all Ireland’s struggles are behind it, says Henry Chu in the Los Angeles Times. Yes, the country has already shown it can once again borrow at commercial interest rates and has built up enough of a reserve to fund itself until 2015 in case markets experience any further turbulence in the next few months.

But “official relief at the end of Ireland’s reliance on emergency loans is tempered by the fact that it will continue to face deep government cuts in order to close a yawning budget gap and pay off its debt”; the debt-to-GDP ratio remains an unnerving 124%.

That might be less of an issue if the economy was springing back to life robustly, but Ireland continues to face “significant economic challenges”, according to Christine Largarde, the IMF’s managing director.

Chief among these is tackling unemployment, especially among the young. Around a quarter of those aged under 25 are jobless, even after significant numbers have left the country in search of better prospects.

Meanwhile, bank lending remains weak and promised structural reforms have been implemented piecemeal at best, says The Economist. Realistically, “Ireland is almost as far away as ever from a clean bill of economic health”.

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