"Bit of friendly advice, Portugal
Sunday March 27 2011
Dear Portugal, this is Ireland here. I know we don't know each other very well, though I hear some of our developers are down with you riding out the recession.
They could be there for a while. Anyway, I don't mean to intrude but I've been reading about you in the papers and it strikes me that I might be able to offer you a bit of advice on where you are at and what lies ahead. As the joke now goes, what's the difference between Portugal and Ireland? Five letters and six months.
Anyway, I notice now that you are under pressure to accept a bailout but your politicians are claiming to be determined not to take it. It will, they say, be over their dead bodies. In my experience that means you'll be getting a bailout soon, probably on a Sunday. First let me give you a tip on the nuances of the English language. Given that English is your second language, you may think that the words 'bailout' and 'aid' imply that you will be getting help from our European brethren to get you out of your current difficulties. English is our first language and that's what we thought bailout and aid meant. Allow me to warn you, not only will this bailout, when it is inevit-ably forced on you, not get you out of your current troubles, it will actually prolong your troubles for generations to come.
For this you will be expected to be grateful. If you want to look up the proper Portuguese for bailout, I would suggest you get your English-Portuguese dictionary and look up words like: moneylending, usury, subprime mortgage, rip-off. This will give you a more accurate translation of what will be happening you.
I see also that you are going to change your government in the next couple of months. You will forgive me that I allowed myself a little smile about that. By all means do put a fresh coat of paint over the subsidence cracks in your economy. And by all means enjoy the smell of fresh paint for a while.
We got ourselves a new Government too and it is a nice diversion for a few weeks. What you will find is that the new government will come in amidst a slight euphoria from the people. The new government will have made all kinds of promises during the election campaign about burning bondholders and whatnot and the EU will smile benignly on while all that loose talk goes on.
Then, when your government gets in, they will initially go out to Europe and throw some shapes. You might even win a few sports games against your old enemy, whoever that is, and you may attract visits from foreign dignitaries like the Pope and that. There will be a real feel-good vibe in the air as everyone takes refuge in a bit of delusion for a while.
And enjoy all that while you can, Portugal. Because reality will be waiting to intrude again when all the fun dies down. The upside of it all is that the price of a game of golf has become very competitive here. Hopefully the same happens down there and we look forward to seeing you then.