The economic axe has fallen.
However, it is now for the High Court to decide whether Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and members of the board of the Central Bank of Barbados acted within their rights in demanding the head of Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell on the proverbial silver platter.
Sinckler, at the insistence of other members of the board of the monetary authority, reportedly met with Worrell last Thursday to inform him that his services were no longer needed, and that he had until Monday to either resign or be forced out of office.
However, that order was met with defiance on the part of the Governor, who immediately embarked upon a legal course of action, challenging the right of the minister to oust him.
This led to the convening of a special High Court sitting on Sunday evening at which the Governor, through his attorney Gregory Nicholls, argued for and was granted a temporary injunction, barring Sinckler and the six-member board of the Central Bank from taking any further action to dispose of him – at least for another two days or until the court could be satisfied that there were reasonable grounds for removing him.
In making the ruling on the urgent application, Justice Randall Worrell also gave Sinckler until Wednesday morning to come up with a satisfactory explanation as to why the Governor was being removed.
Efforts today to get a response from Sinckler were unsuccessful.
However, speaking on behalf of the Governor, Nicholls said his client had fallen victim to abuse of power on the part of the Minister of Finance.
He further argued that Worrell had done nothing wrong, was neither guilty of an act of serious misconduct nor had he proven himself incapable of carrying out his functions; therefore there was no reason to support his dismissal.
“Because they disagree with him on how an HR [human resources] matter is dealt with or a statement that he has made in public, none of the directors of the board have the capacity or the competence in economic matters. They are there to help with the management of the bank, make sure that the bank is well run, to ensure that the bank’s staff are properly appointed and have the proper facilities etc, but in terms of commenting on the monetary and economic activities and performance of the Barbados economy, the Governor does not need the concurrence of the board to speak on those matters,” Nicholls explained.
He further accused the Minister of Finance of seeking to make the Governor an economic scapegoat, even though he was adamant that his client was not responsible for the country’s worsening economic situation.
“Economic policy in Barbados is led by the Minister of Finance and the Government. If that policy fails you can’t blame the person who is the watchdog and the monitor of economic activity and who is providing economic advice,” he told Barbados TODAY.
Nicholls also took issue with the way in which Worrell’s dismissal was handled, while pointing out that the procedure for getting rid of any member of the board, including the Governor, was clearly set out in the Central Bank Act.
“They would have to pass a resolution at the board after having satisfied themselves that he is guilty of misconduct or that he is unfit to carry out his job,” he said, adding that the Governor, who is Chairman of the Central Bank board, would have to recuse himself to allow the process to go forward.
However, he said no such procedure was followed, while suggesting that if anyone were to blame it was the Minister of Finance, who is responsible for the country’s economic situation.
“The Minister cannot avoid his duty under Section 49 of the Act by getting rid of the Central Bank Governor because he does not like what the policy of the bank is.
“So if the Bank is saying, ‘look, we are being now more cautious than ever because of the state of declining reserves that we can no longer afford for us to run a $700 million deficit on the bank’s accounts because you are asking us to print money and the Minister of Finance disagrees, then the Act allows the Minister of Finance to issue a directive to the Central Bank Governor, which by law he would have to comply with. But if he [the minister] doesn’t do that then he can’t ask the man to leave.
“We are creatures of the law,” Nicholls stressed.
However, while the Governor believes he has “a very solid case” for holding on to his job, at least one senior Government official suggests otherwise.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity, the official questioned if this were the same Governor who had “refused to talk to the media and refused to talk to his staff”, saying he would not regret one bit seeing the back of him.
In fact, the official said he was never in support of the renewal of his five-year contract back in 2014 “when he was going to war with every media house”. He also suggested that the Employment Right’s Act was flawed but said something needed to done to about the Central Bank’s structure since it was the only statutory board where the chairman was also the chief executive of the institution.
“I think they need to look at that,” he said.
Monday, sources within the Bank also described the situation there as tense, while highlighting the recent firing of the Human Resources Manager Janis Marville as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. They suggested that Worrell had not only lost the confidence of the Minister and the Board but also the Bank’s senior management and that owing to his management style, as well as his questionable spending and decision-making, “morale in the bank is in complete tatters”.
The Board is to meet Tuesday ahead of Wednesday morning’s court session.