“A giant slap in the face!” That is how June Fowler, Chairperson of the Barbados Investors and Policyholders Alliance (BIPA), describes the disturbing absence in the Budget of any significant disclosure signalling further movement towards the promised June 2012 resolution to the CLICO debacle. “At least we know the Minister of Finance reads the Nation and is into recycling,” says Fowler, “because every word he spoke, we had all already read in a series of articles published in its pages months ago, together with proposals put forward in detail last year by the Judicial Manager.”
Already unimpressed by some of the ‘Options’ previously put forward by the Judicial Managers; frustrated by Government’s continued silence on official Reports; perturbed by the unconscionable lack of communication with policyholders, and troubled by the refusal to keep this matter of national importance on the Government’s ‘front burner’, BIPA deplores the fact that yet another promise to 35,000 Barbadians has been broken by the Government, and that the 10,000 BAICO policyholders didn’t even get a mention in the Budget speech.
The Alliance is also baffled by the Minister of Finance’s apparent failure to recognise the ripple effects Government’s inertia on the CLICO and BAICO fiascos is having on the local economy he claims so keen to boost. It is not just the victims and their families who are suffering, but also local businesses which policyholders are no longer able to patronise. “Imagine the difference to the state of the economy if the $854 million owed to policyholders was back in their hands and circulating locally,” points out June Fowler.
BIPA is adding this latest betrayal to the litany of previous unfulfilled promises and empty re-assurances, and laments the announcement of more meetings at which proposals are only “expected to be presented and discussed”. In particular, the Alliance is horrified at the sudden inclusion of the statement by the Minister of Finance that “if this effort at a resolution fails, the likelihood will be of devastating consequences for thousands of policyholders.”
Recoiling from this comment, June Fowler asks, “Are these the utterances of a Government that has given ‘a solemn promise’ or an undertaking to ‘stand by’ its words, let alone a Government that claims to humble itself and admit that they dropped the ball in many respects?” she adds. “Have they forgotten already that the wanton mismanagement of policyholders’ funds was allowed to happen and persist on their watch due to inadequate financial legislation and regulation, the negligence of regulatory bodies, and their continued procrastination and prevarication, instead of dealing with the problem head on from the start?”
Despite Government’s lack of commitment to their promise to find an expeditious and favourable resolution to this national scandal, BIPA remains committed to pursuing a fully satisfactory outcome for CLICO and BAICO policyholders using all available avenues and remedies, and looks forward to the continuing support of policyholders and stakeholders.