DLP candidate, Dr. David Estwick ,has called on the people of Barbados to punish former Prime Minister Owen Arthur for the sale of many of the country’s assets, which has now left the country in a difficult position with regards to financing and even collateral.
In a hot and impassioned speech in Checker Hall, St. Lucy last night, the Democratic Labour Party incumbent for St. Philip West, who was a former DLP Minister of Commerce and Economic Affairs, tackled the issue of the sale of Barbados’ stock under the BLP Administration.
“Can you imagine that we had a BNB bank, owned by you and owned by me, and an ICB insurance company owned by you and by me? Can you imagine that this Administration turned around the BNB because it was unprofitable, was turned around and made profitable, and when it became profitable, Owen Arthur decided to sell it to the Trinidadians. Let me explain to you the folly in that action…
“The BNB was not a drain on the Treasury, it was adding money to the Treasury. So it was helping to offset other entities that were a drain on the Treasury. Because of that you don’t sell it; but the reason why the bank is now well clearly identified as a major problem is this: For the first time because we don’t have a bank, we now don’t have the flexibility to finance our projects domestically.
“If we had the BNB we could give many of the businessmen soft loans, we could spread out the interest rates. We could help them when they having difficulties and work along with them. But now the orders come from Trinidad – ‘sell ya business’, you have lost the flexibility because we now don’t have a bank from which we can help our own.
“The same is true for the Insurance Corporation of Barbados because we don’t have the flexibility to be able to make adjustments with relation to insurance rates because we are helping our own in regards to minibus men and other persons who need risk coverage. I am saying†to you Owen erred and erred in a major way,” he said.
Estwick charged that currently, when ministers went to the Trinidad banks it would normally ask for collateral, but for the projects he had responsibility, the Trinidad banks were asking for Government guarantee, they are asking for the building as collateral and then to allow them to go into the company, take the revenue and manage the facility first.
“That could not happen if the bank was still owned by Barbadians. Understand the danger in what that man did. He removed the flexibility we had as a government in managing our financing, with relation to public sector finance and infrastructural building and you must punish him for it, because that was built on the back of the credit union and the people who sent back their pension,” he said.
“Do not forget that every single thing that came up for sale in Barbados the Trinidadians bought. When Pine Hill Dairy came up for sale, they bought that. Arawak Cement Plant, they bought that. When Heywoods came up for sale, they bought that. BS&T, they bought that; Geddes Grant and all of them, they bought that,” he said, charging that when Arthur attempts to sell the airport, sea port, Transport Board and Barbados Water Authority, he believes they will go to Trinidad as well.
He charged that contrary to what was being said, Chris Sinckler was not the one to start privatisation, but Arthur in 1997 told the House of Assembly during Budget debates that if Barbados was to provide further business for the Securities Exchange of Barbados, then they would have to enter a privatisation programme to re-enhance the business activity of the exchange.
The companies proposed then, Estwick said were BNB, ICB, the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, Grantley Adams International Airport, the Bridgetown Port, Barbados National Terminals Company Ltd, Barbados National Oil Companies Ltd, and the Sanitation Service Authority. (LB)