Controversial debt restructuring firm, White Oak Consultancy, has saved hundreds of public sector jobs and if it had been hired by the previous government, could have saved Barbadians a tremendous amount of pain.
During Sunday’s Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) mass meeting in its Carlisle Car Park stomping ground, Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Attorney General Dale Marshall lashed out at critics of the administration’s economic decisions.
Prime Minister Mottley argued White Oak Consultancy has been playing a major role in preventing many more layoffs than actually occurred under the Barbados’ Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme and was critical in stabilizing the economy.
“In 1991 to 1994, we had a problem with our foreign reserves but today we have a problem with our reserves and with our debt. In 1991 to 1994, you [Erskine Sandiford-led DLP government] sent home 4000 and cut salaries by eight per cent. In 2014, when we met here, the Dems had already sent home 3000. Your Government has said no, we are not putting workers on the frontline of change in this country and we would ask the people who were making profits in the banks to bear the burden. That is what White Oak has helped us to negotiate,” said Mottley.
The PM also defended the controversial US$27 million in fees, which became a major talking point particularly following an article released last month by the London-based Financial Times newspaper. Instead, she argued Government had gotten a good bargain.
“Not only did White Oak not get paid a lot of money, but we told them they couldn’t get the money all at once and we spread it across four years and by the time we told them, to help to restructure the arrears,” said the PM, as she took aim at critics.
“What is sad, is that you are trying to titillate people with the numbers without telling people that they [White Oak] have served this country and allowed us to move forward,” she said, adding that the Government had been and would continue to be transparent in the debt restructuring process.
“When a party wins 74 per cent, every single seat, it has a duty to act responsibly and a duty to treat to things and people differently,” she admitted.
Meanwhile, in an extended attack, Attorney General, Dale Marshall accused the previous administration of neglecting to hire the company nearly 10 years ago in 2011 when White Oak introduced itself to the then DLP administration.
According to Marshall, White Oak penned a letter indicating it had been closely monitoring Barbados’ troubling debt situation and was willing to assist with managing the worsening situation.
He said letters were also written to government in 2014 and 2017 to the then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Sinckler respectively, but both were ignored.
“A stitch in time saves nine. White Oak came in and assisted this Barbados Labor Party administration and saved us a billion dollars a year in interest payments. Had Chris Sinckler had the common sense or common decency to listen to White Oak in 2011, you would have buses on your roads and you would have good roads for them to drive on,” he told BLP faithful gathered at Carlisle Car Park.
“That is why we love them so [White Oak], because they’re persistent. And they’re persistent with the creditors. They were so persistent that they wrote Chris Sinckler again in 2017,” said the AG.
Marshall also defended government amid accusations of a lack of transparency in choosing White Oak consultancy in the absence of a tendering process. He argued that Barbados’s situation was so “grave” there was simply no time after Government took office last May.
“There was no time to tender because the process would have taken too long and Barbados would have been “stone dead”.
“The first discussion at our first cabinet meeting was whether we should engage this same company, White Oak, that has done seven of the largest restructurings and seven of the last 11 restructurings over the last ten years. A company with an impeccable record and we made the decision at our first cabinet meeting.White Oak is saving us a billion dollars a year and their fees are millions of dollars. But we recognize that our situation was so grave that we had to find the finest skills that money could buy, to resurrect this country,” said Marshall.