Sinckler says: Not so, Kerrie!

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has rubbished claims by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) that the Government is plotting to bypass the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) ruling on the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Ltd (BNTCL) to the Sol Group.

BLP Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds declared in Parliament on Wednesday night that he had evidence the Freundel Stuart administration was contemplating changing the law so the sale could proceed, despite the FTC’s ruling on November 28 last year that the deal could not go through in its current form because it was “anti-competitive, restrict competition or potential competition”.

In fact, Symmonds claimed to have a copy of a January 19, 2018 letter from Sol to the Ministries of Finance, Energy and Industry and International Business, seeking confirmation of the draft legislation.

According to the Opposition Parliamentarian, that correspondence also asked about confirmation on the implementation of a moratorium—something the FTC had rejected.

However, speaking with reporters this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, on the sidelines of the introduction of a new tax administration system by the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), Sinckler said Symmonds’ claims were “total rubbish”.

He said given that it was the “last days” of Parliament, which will be dissolved in approximately two-and-a-half weeks, making legislative changes to accommodate the sale of the BNTCL simply did not make sense.

“Seriously? I mean it is rubbish. So no such thing is the case,” he insisted.

Pointing to the FTC’s ruling, Sinckler said the parties involved were free to appeal the decision, but his “understanding is that the parties don’t want to go that far [but] are going to see if they can reform the agreement and present it to the FTC”.

However, the Finance Minister did not rule out some form of legislative changes, which he said would be in keeping with the FTC’s requirement for weaknesses in the energy sector to be addressed.

“Those are things that the Government has to pay attention to because the Government does the policy. The Government is responsible for the legislative arrangements. Therefore, . . . if those things have been identified as weaknesses in the system by the FTC and by players in the system, it is incumbent on Government to study those, see where they are if they are valid and they can be remedied by legislation.

“But to suggest that the Government is going to try to go through a back door to sell a terminal in Barbados is absolute rubbish. And I think that Mr Symmonds . . .  knows that is not the case either. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and I am sure in a couple weeks’ time you will see that none of that really is true,” added Sinckler.

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