Most people agree that the first Matrix film was an entertaining, and maybe a great, film. The second film was a bit “meh” and the third was unwatchable except for the most diehard fans. But as popular as the first Matrix was, and it was certainly stylish and the tone of the conversations was impressively weighty, what was actually said was a load of crap. “More important than what, is when” says Morpheus before explaining to Neo that the year is 2197 not 1997. Think about that for a second and it is utterly meaningless. Morpheus goes on to explain that their craft is a “ship, the Nebuchadnezzar. It’s a hovercraft”. No, it’s not, it’s a submersible and you never see it hovering. In fact, you might never be able to watch that film with a straight face again if you actually think about what is being said throughout, because it’s just a stylistically-rendered load of rubbish.
NAMA has this morning produced a matrix .
The matrix (shown above) is NAMA’s attempt to show that contrary to popular perception, NAMA is a very transparent organisation, at least relative to the State-owned banks and semi-state agencies. And on the face of it, NAMA is impressive, and as far as this matrix goes, it is accurate. In fact NAMA is a martyr to itself by omitting the fact that it has a dedicated blog to track its progress, and there isn’t an AIBshootingFishInABarrel or an IBRCcosts50pcmorethanNAMAtorun blog. Okay, NAMA doesn’t refer to the fact that it is not subject to Freedom of Information legislation, and it might be considered a tad inconvenient to remind us that it is at present fighting tooth-and-nail with the Information Commissioner in the courts to stop NAMA being subjected to environmental requests. But this is NAMA’s visual attempt to convince you it is transparent.
But unlike the ESB or Bord Gais, where you can get a good sense of sales, costs and profits, NAMA’s performance is still shrouded in thick fog. If you were to ask me today how NAMA was performing, I could stick on a pair of shades and adopt Morpheus’s all-knowing tone and tell you it’s doing badly or well, but in truth we don’t really know. Is NAMA making a profit? Presently yes, by reference to accounting standards though it is carrying a €1bn cumulative loss, and remember that it imposed a separate €42bn loss on the banks. But even the current NAMA profit is skewed by accounting conventions like “effective interest rates” and the rules about when NAMA can recognise profits. We know that NAMA overpaid the banks by €5.6bn compared with what the loans were worth on the open market – that was deliberate and the EU approval of NAMA anticipated that a premium would be paid for long term economic value et cetera. And since NAMA valued those loans, property values in Ireland are down a further 25-30%. So what big hole lies beneath NAMA?
NAMA won’t tell you about profit on individual sales, or what projects it is investing in or how many staff are currently suspended – “we don’t discuss individual transactions”, “we don’t discuss individual staff” – nor even confirm overall totals for staff suspended. Somehow, even though the ESB and Bord Gais are less transparent than NAMA in NAMA’s matrix, we tend to feel more confident about the transparency of their operations.