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Atherley questions White Oak bill

by Barbados Today
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Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley wants the assurance that the $64 million dollar bill for services to White Oak will not increase.

The head of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development was speaking during the debate for a Supplemental of $12,011,453 million which is to be paid for a “legal liability” associated with the debt restructuring programme.

Atherley was critical of the mounting bill Barbados now faces due to the arrangement with White Oak Advisory.

“We were told that the White Oak Advisory group and their engagement cost us about $54 million dollars. I personally don’t think that questions have been fully answered to a good level of satisfaction with reference to that particular arrangement….”

The MP said he understands that the Christ Church East Central Member of Parliament is obliged to speak about what he sees as Government’s success during the past 18 months or so but he wants answers and assurances that the debt will not increase.

“Certainly I don’t think we have even heard clearly why White Oak in the first place and the process under which they were selected but that’s not my point today. The fact is that cost us about $54 million. Today we are told we have to settle a legal liability associated with the debt restructuring of $12 million so that is about $66 million.

“I simply stand on my feet to ask if we can anticipate any further liability on the part of the Barbados Government with respect to the whole process of debt restructuring to be brought to this Honourable Chamber…,” Atherley said.

In a rebuttal Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn attempted to answer Atherley’s question by explaining why the debt restructuring exercise was proving to be so costly.

He referred to the “previous administration” on a numerous occasions in order to paint the picture of the economic reality which the new government found on coming to office. However, after close to 12 minutes speaking Straughn gave no assurances to Atherley as it relates to any additional payments to White Oak in the future.

“Barbados underwent a comprehensive debt restructuring and part of the sums here reflect the costs associated with the legal services that would have been utilised by the Government of Barbados of the Cleary, Gottlieb, Hamilton LLP firm with respect to be able to settle not just the domestic but also the external debt restructuring that took place…”

He added: “Having gone through this exercise there were questions realised with respect to the length of time it took. We executed perhaps the fastest debt restructuring but the external debt (restructuring) took about 15 months.”

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