ST. VINCENT: The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) was up to Wednesday, Oct. 6, trying to save from privatisation, the National Commercial Bank (NCB), 51 per cent of which has been sold to a St. Lucian company.
NDP Vice President, Senator St. Clair Leacock, told party supporters on Saturday, Oct. 9, that NDP representatives met with consultants last week to discuss the options opened to the party.
“We know now for a fact that we can raise the money to save the bank but we need time,” he said at an NDP rally in Trigger Ridge, Central Kingstown.
Leacock, however, said he was informed that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has since signed the final agreement with the St. Lucian Company.
“So, the bank is already sold. So we can do nothing about it. But no one must blame the New Democratic Party, because we have been exhausting and we are still exhausting attempts to save the bank,” Leacock said.
However, Leacock, the NDP’s candidate for Central Kingstown in general elections due by March 2011, did not say how the NDP intended to raise the monies needed to keep the NCB in the hands of Vincentians.
Gonsalves announced last week that his Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration had sold 51 per cent of the NCB to East Caribbean Financial Holding Company Limited (ECFH), parent company of the Bank of Saint Lucia Limited.
The government of SVG will retain 49 per cent of the shares of the NCB, which is to be renamed Bank of SVG.
Additionally, the government will over the next 12 months further divest 29 per cent of the NCB shares to the country’s National Insurance Service, NCB staff, and citizens of SVG and the region.
Leacock said the government was “politically dishonest” with Vincentians about the circumstances leading up to the sale of the bank.
“When the Prime Minister comes to you and suggests that this has been a great demonstration of financial responsibility, he has been telling you complete lies.”
He noted that before the NCB sale, the government borrowed EC$100 million (US$37 million) from the Caribbean Development Bank to repay state loan from the NCB. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)
“So, if the government has to borrow $100 million to save the National Commercial Bank … and in return they sold the bank for $42 million, immediately, you know they have lost,” Leacock said.
He said it became “apparent” that the country was in a “crisis” when the NDP met with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this year for the annual Article IV Consultations.
“The people are diplomats and they will say some and save some. They knew that things like the airport were getting the government into trouble. But more than that, when they examined the book of the bank, they realised that the National Commercial Bank was already in trouble,” Leacock said.
The government is constructing on St. Vincent’s east coast an international airport expected to cost at least EC$500 million (US$185.18 million), most of which, Gonsalves said, will come from assistance from ally nations.
Leacock quoted the IMF report, which said, “The central government’s overall fiscal deficit more than doubled to 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2009, largely due to spending increases to help mitigate the impact of the global crisis on the poor and one-off costs of constitutional and public sector reforms.”
“In other words, the government [is broke], and it is getting worse… In other words, the money that the government spent, like the $4 million for [the referendum] … campaign and the buying of things like the Ju-C building, all those things served to bankrupt the country,” Leacock said.
He said that to save the NCB, the government could have sold some of its assets, including the Cobblestone Inn and the Ju-C Building – for which it paid EC$6.5 million (US$2.4 million) when the owners had asked for EC$4.5 million (US$1.6 million).
“I want people to understand the position of the New Democratic Party. It pains us, in the month of our independence, to lose our National Commercial Bank. We did not have to lose it. We could have saved it. And the NDP, during this week, had been spending a lot of time to see how we could save the bank,” Leacock said. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
SVG will mark its 31 anniversary of independence on Oct. 27.
Leacock further said the government was operating a Ponzi scheme, using state lands to secure loans to statutory corporation from the state bank.
Senator: PM ‘raped’ the NCB
Meanwhile, fellow NDP senator and candidate for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings, speaking at the same rally, said Gonsalves “raped” the NCB.
“You have a government that has made rape its national pastime. What they have done to the National Commercial Bank is the worst kind of rape,” Cummings said.
“… [I]f it weren’t so serious, I would laugh. But this is a criminal act of the worst kind. This is criminality on the part of Ralph Gonsalves and his government,” Cummings added.
Cummings described as a “pirate”, Desmond Morgan, a former NCB Chairman and husband of Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan.
“It has some pirate named Morgan, whose wife is the Attorney General, they raped the bank too,” he said.
The High Court has ordered Mr. Morgan’s company, Blue Skye Communications, to pay the NCB EC$2.251 million (US$0.83 million) as repayment for the loans and interest accumulated.
Cummings asked why Mrs. Morgan was not included in the suit the bank brought against her husband although she had also guaranteed the loans.
Cumming said the Gonsalves administration had sold the bank so that an NDP government “will not be able to access the information to take them to court and ultimately to [the] Belle Isle [Correctional Facility].”
“But I come to tell them think again. They can run, my dear people, but they can’t hide. … The truth will set us free. … Wha’ dey in darkness will come to light. And those who raped shall be charged. And the charge is serious and it could last from now until thy kingdom come, it can’t be too late. Rape is one of the charges that yo’ can bring at any time. Anytime! And, whether yo’ rape the bank or yo’ rape people or whatever yo rape, yo goin’ pay,” Cumming said partly in dialect.
“Whether the bank is owned by St. Lucians, Dominicans, or people from Mars, the information will be there and the people of St. Vincent will continue to have an interest in it, and the information will be unearthed and those who are found guilty will be taken before the court of law and they will feel the full force of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added.