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Forgive debtors, dole out the penance and move on

by David McWilliams,
February 18th, 2009 Irish Independent

This morning, all over Ireland, bankers are meeting their clients. At the table will be two bankers, the lad who lent the money and the lad who is trying to get it back. On the other side of the table is the sinner who has borrowed heavily and now can’t pay his debts. There might also be a liquidator there with the sinner, explaining to the bankers just how desperate the situation is. The first thing the bankers have to get their head around is that the “security” they were pledged against the loans last year isn’t worth the paper it is written on. The second thing they have to understand is that they are not getting their money back, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. The bankers have to start thinking like priests. They need to get into the forgiveness game.

Why, you might ask? Surely someone who was stupid enough to expand his or her business using borrowed money at the top of the boom doesn’t deserve forgiveness? Surely, they deserve punishment? Well in an ideal world retribution has its place, but now Ireland has to start talking about forgiveness. We need to soften our stance toward our debtors, not because of any moral requirement, but because it is the only way out of the situation.

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