Eastern Caribbean still looking for justice
Newly-appointed Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) Dr Timothy Antoine says even though the CLICO/BAICO chapter will go down as one of the most “painful” in the sub-region’s history, most heartbreaking of all has been the fact that no one has been held criminally or financially accountable.
“Seven years on, the kind of hardship and suffering that our policyholders go through, I hear it every day, it really breaks my heart,” said Antoine, who was delivering a lecture here last night.
“What is worse, [is that] the perpetrators of this tragedy have not been held accountable criminally or financially, but have the gall to come and ask back for compensation,” he added, while taking issue with directors in the two sister insurance companies, whom he said were also “shamelessly” asking for their companies to be handed back to them.
Speaking at the Cave Hill School of Business, Antoine also took issue with the Barbados Government’s restructuring plan for the failed companies, whose collapse in 2009 sent shockwaves across the Eastern Caribbean.
In fact, he indicated that it was still not sitting well with Governments in the ECCU.
“I know Barbados is starting something, we have some concerns, we’ll see how that goes,” said Antoine, without going into details.
However, he said his primary interest was in getting economic justice for policyholders in the ECCU who were yet to recover their monies.
“ I’m not a lawyer, therefore I am not in the justice system criminally . . . The criminal justice system should deal with the criminal side, but it pains me and others, all of us, who been through this that there is no economic justice, or very little.”
Antoine, who prior to taking up the post at the ECCU was intimately involved in crafting the sub-region’s response to the CLICO and BAICO contagion, acknowledged that “some progress” had been made with respect to BAICO, given that some $100 million had been paid to 80 per cent of the policyholders.
However, he said, “We still have a lot of people who aren’t paid”.
The Governor described the overall situation as “very difficult”, complaining that, on top of the fact that there had been “little or no economic justice, CLICO and BAICO directors had been asking for large sums in compensation.
Following his lecture entitled, The Economic of Leadership: Keys for 21st Century Leaders, the former Permanent Secretary in Grenada’s Ministry of Finance told reporters there were many lessons from the CLICO/BAICO debacle.
“Part of the legacy of this very painful chapter in Caribbean history is ensuring that we have strong integrated regional regulations and supervision of not just our banks, but our non-banks.
“I feel a professional responsibility to work with colleagues around the region to ensure that as far as possible we minimize the risk of a BAICO/CLICO fallout and disaster ever again by taking steps to strengthen, in this particular instance, insurance regulations supervision across the region.”
He added: “In the ECCU we are very much on that journey. A number of our countries have passed new insurance laws to strengthen the ability to supervise, but more importantly we now have a regional insurance law
“Just as we have a uniform Banking Act, with the central bank as the regulator, also [we are] very much promoting a uniform insurance law across the ECCU, and a regional regulator.”
He said that no one country in the ECCU was in a position to deliver the kind of supervisory regulation needed of insurance companies.
“And so this new regulator will be for insurance, or insurers, pensions and other non-bank financial.”
In terms of the wider Caribbean, he spoke of “colleges of regulators” across the region, “where we look at systemically financially important institutions, whether they be in banking or in insurance.
“We look to see how they are performing and what regulatory steps may be required to improve their performance to minimize the risk of that kind of this happening again.
“One of the lessons of BAICO/CLICO is how financially inter-dependent we are. I think we knew we were, but the extent was revealed when we faced this monster, this disaster.”