The island’s newest political party is joining forces with the Clement Payne Movement (CPM) in an attempt to stop the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) to the Sol Group of Companies.
In a letter to the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), the fledgling Barbados Integrity Movement (BIM) “fully endorses the request made for your organization to professionally and objectively investigate the proposed sale of the BNTCL to the Sol Group of Companies”.
BIM’s Political Leader Neil Holder said his party was also joining the CPM in reminding the FTC of its duty to the citizens of Barbados.
“In this regard, we look forward to an investigation diligently carried out without fear and favour,” Holder wrote in his letter dated January 25 to FTC Chief Executive Officer Sandra Sealy.
It was a follow up to a letter written by CPM President David Comissiong, also dated January 25, asking the FTC not to approve the sale.
Comissiong’s letter called on the FTC to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the proposed sale, with a view to exploring all of the possible anti-competition and monopolistic implications.
He reminded Sealy that the Fair Competition Act gives the commission the power “to take such action as it considers necessary to prevent mergers that are detrimental to the principles that the Commission is mandated to uphold”.
The attorney-at-law also reminded Sealy that the Act provided the state regulatory agency with “an excellent” framework for analyzing the relevant facts and for ultimately determining that “the incestuous” sale of BNTCL to Sol must not be allowed to proceed.
He noted that over the past 18 years, Barbados had consciously pursued a distinct state-moderated anti-monopoly policy in the fuel distribution and retail sector, which Comissiong contended had worked well for the nation and people, but which was now threatened by the planned sale.
“Now, however, there are signs that the monster of private sector, profit-driven, monopoly is rearing its ugly head in this sector of our economy,” Comissiong wrote.
The head of the 30-year-old CPM said it was disturbing that “this level of monopoly or oligopoly” had emerged where the fuel retail market here was controlled by a mere two companies – Rubis Caribbean, with 30 per cent share and Sol, with the remaining 70 per cent.
He also argued that “none of the factors specified in Section 21 of the Fair Competition Act for permitting a merger, applied to this case”, insisting the sale would not result in greater efficiencies.
“It is difficult, if not impossible, to conceive of a more efficient arrangement than the one that exists now, with the state owned entity fairly and even-handedly servicing all of the private sector retail companies, and at the same time looking out for the consumer,” he wrote.