It is time for the Parliament of Barbados to act on CLICO.
And it cannot be fixed by bankrupting the country, but with a policy that makes sense for both the state and the people affected.
This was the assertion of Opposition Leader Owen Arthur as he addressed a political meeting on Sunday at the Alma Parris School.
Arthur argued that more than 15 per cent of the country — some 35,000 people — were affected by the CLICO situation and when so many were impacted the Government had a duty to respond.
“If 35,000 people are put in a position where they are left … in a state of confusion; they don’t know if they are coming or going. Some people were getting monthly interest payments; some don’t know if their pension funds are going to be there to look forward to. If in a country of our population you have 35,000 people who are put in that condition of contingency, they are going to stop spending and many of them are going to stop investing.
“I want to say that that situation in relation to CLICO, where 35,000 people in a country of 300,000 have to make the first spending or investing, that is now a drag on the Barbados economy and it is impossible to conceive of how you can get this economy to grow, unless those 35,000 people are brought back as active investors and spenders in this country.
“So it is too large a section of the society to go unaddressed as a problem without that problem finding its way back into the general economy. I cannot conceive of how you will get the Barbados economy to grow unless you fix the CLICO problem and let those people feel that they can start spending and investing again and get that money circulating in the economy again,” said Arthur.
He went on to suggest that the dealings with CLICO thus far had not left the people with any clear indication as to what was happening.
“I am saying the system failed and that Government has a duty to respond when people are in a situation of difficulty, not because of their own choosing, but because the system that was supposed to be there to protect them failed to look after their interest. That is one of the issues in the CLICO matter.”
The other matter, he argued, surrounded the “legitimate expectations of persons, based on promises of those in leadership positions that they would get their monies back, and based on those promises might have borrowed or otherwise put themselves in debt, believing the forthcoming monies would take care of any difficulties.
“That is what I call for us to go to Parliament and fix it. That is why Parliament exists… It wants fixing in Parliament because at some stage the people of the country will have to say we have to fix it, and it has to be fixed with a policy that makes sense in the interest of the country and in the interest of the people that are affected. We have to bring that balance. We can’t break the country in fixing it, but we have to be fair to the people that are affected.”
The former Prime Minister said he brought an insurance act in 1997 to attempt to ensure such things did not happen, that insurance companies should have a statutory fund deficit, with assets set aside so if there were challenges, the company still had the ability to pay when policies matured.
“That is the law and the law on the statute books is that if there is ever a deficit, there isn’t any requirement saying that the Minister of Finance must act, the law shields the public from the Minister of Finance exercising his discretion in the matter. The law says if there is a deficit in that fund then the Supervisor of Insurance shall apply to the courts and seek to have this matter addressed by putting the fund under judicial management. So what we are seeing in Barbados has been an abomination,” the St. Peter MP declared. (LB)