Treading Carefully In The CLICO Debate
The CLICO Affair has occupied our region for more than five weeks now. We suspect that it will continue to do so for a little while longer. Underlying the cause of CLICO’s problem maybe a combination of a lack of a harmonized regional regulatory framework to manage our Pan-Caribbean companies, and the global financial meltdown which has dried-up cash flow for many companies. There are some people who might suggest that the Lawrence Duprey company has not endeared itself to regulators in the region over the year, a story for another time. This might explain the haste with which the CL Financial empire is being dismantled across the region.
Barbados has long been rated as a stable financial market. Unlike Bahamas, Guyana, Belize and others the Barbados authorities (government) have elected to manage the CLICO crisis in a different way. The Opposition Party in Barbados has shown its displeasure by tabling a motion of no confidence in the government which was predictably defeated on Friday (6 March 2008). Our style of government entitles the Opposition Party to table a motion of no confidence in their judgement.
The Opposition by their admission used the right to table a motion of no-confidence in Minister of Finance David Thompson knowing they would lose it. The strategic importance of the exercise on Friday was obviously to use the privilege of parliament to reveal information for the benefit of the public. The government countered that it was political opportunism on the part of the Opposition. Who knows!
Two matters arising out of the debate in parliament has caused us to be concerned about the intelligence which a few of our members of parliament demonstrated in the debate.
Ronald Toppin at a point in his presentation indicated that if he had an investment in CLICO he would have withdrawn it by now (words to that effect). Now Mr. Toppin that was an unintelligent pronouncement to make on nationaltelevision don’t you think? If we were to give you credit on having average intelligent you must know that your comment would only have served to undermine the effort to maintain stability in the market when it is sorely needed. To withdraw your investment is always your right but one which is prudent to have kept private in the prevailing circumstances.
The other issue of concern was raised by Ministers Sinckler and Inniss. They more than hinted that members of parliament on the Opposition side had significant deposits at CLICO. We don’t remember any points of order when the claims were made by MPs on the Opposition side! We agree with MP Toppin when he made the point that discussing the financial information of MPs who hold accounts at CLICO was a breach of confidentiality and lacked class.
Along with the two points of concern mentioned, we could have cited others. MPs Toppin, Sinckler and Inniss definitely displayed a lack of sensitivity and responsibility given the prevailing climate. Ultimately this matter is not only about efficiently managing the CLICO Affair but more importantly preserving the financial stability of the country.
If it is one conclusion we can make after the 12+ hour debate is that there is enough blame to share around.