Individuals and businesses whose lands were compulsory acquired by Government will be compensated in a new series of Government bonds, Minister of Finance Ryan Straughn has announced.
The Series J bonds are to be paid over the course of 42 months to settle Government’s arrears, he told the House of Assembly during debate on the Debt Settlement (Arrears) Bill.
Straughn explained that Government is making a credible attempt to pay those people and businesses, some of whom have been waiting to be compensated for over 20 years.
He said if Government attempted to use the Series F structure as currently constituted the cash requirement between now and next September 30 would be significant and would impact on Government’s ability to carry out other programmes.
The finance minister said: “Because of the significant arrears in relation to land acquisition as well as outstanding legal claims, it has meant that with the current Series F bonds expiring September 30, 2022, we have now created this new series which is flexible.
“Basically where we are with respect to what we are doing here, we are simply putting a framework in place to ensure that the settlement of the principle of those arrears can be done over the 42-month period.
“I take this opportunity to indicate that because of the nature of the cash flow and the financing of Government’s programmes I say to all parties that the best way and the easiest way for the Government to be able to settle any obligation at this particular point in time is for us to be able to structure out a programme within the context of the public finances over 42 months to be able to settle these matters.”
He said while some people had asked to be paid in full Government is unable to do so at this time.
Straughn said: “The fiscal situation, the situation with the economy in terms of where it is at does not allow the Government the ability to do so and settle with you in full. So the easiest way for us to be able to settle that principle is to do it over the course of 42 months allowing us to be able to structure out what it is that we are collecting by way of revenue, what we are paying out in terms of debt service and everything else.”
Government is willing to negotiate with those who wanted to be paid in cash, he told the House.
But Opposition Leader Bishop Atherley maintained that Government’s latest initiative is a directive from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and should not be seen as charity or a goodwill act by Government.
“I believe he should admit sadly enough that this is only prompted by IMF imperatives,” Bishop Atherley told lawmakers. “In other words the IMF under the Extended Fund Facility, under that agreement one of the prescriptions is that this Government settles its debts. This is not coming out of the bosom of goodwill of the Government, this is coming because it is an IMF requirement and in due course you have to report to the IMF.
“This is not charity, this is not generosity of the Government, this is not even motivated by reasonable action, this is motivated by imperatively prescribed IMF conditions.”
Bishop Atherley chided Straughn for not indicating how much money Government owes the respective individuals and businesses. [email protected]