ST. VINCENT:- Although he is a physician, Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Jerrol Thompson cannot figure out what is “wrong” with Leader of the Opposition and president of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Arnhim Eustace.
“I want someone here to tell me what is wrong with Arnhim Eustace,” Thompson said at a Unity Labour Party (ULP) rally in Mesopotamia on Sunday, Oct. 10.
“What is wrong with Arnhim Eustace? What is wrong with this man? Issue after issues, he seems to be getting it wrong. From the [issue] of the Security Council, he is wrong; on the tug service, he is wrong. Now, with the NCB, he’s wrong,” Thompson told party supporters.
Thompson said that Eustace for weeks opposed the sale of the National Commercial Bank, 51 per cent of which was last week sold to East Caribbean Financial Holding Company Limited (ECFH) of Saint Lucia, parent company of the Bank of Saint Lucia.
“And then, we dropped a bombshell on him. [ULP General Secretary Senator] Julian [Francis] and his researchers found a document,” Thompson said, referring to Eustace’s budget speech of 2000.
“And, in that speech, Arnhim Eustace proclaimed that he was going to divest shares in not only the NCB but also [the state-owned electricity company] VINLEC. But, in three weeks, he said nothing about that. He told nobody about that — what he had said before, because he thought we would not find it. And, when we pulled it out and we presented it in front of his face, he said, oh, oh, oh,” Thompson said.
“…He couldn’t face it. He had to come out and say yes I said that before. But he then went on to say but I wouldn’t sell so [many] shares,” said Thompson, who is making a bid for a third consecutive term as the representative of North Leeward in elections due by next March. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)
“Now somebody told me that this gentleman was an economist. But I know some people study book economics. But the world economics has changed. Things have changed around the world, especially since the global financial crisis,” he added.
“Even forces like Alan Greenspan, an economist who the world respects, he said he doesn’t know what’s going on. … The economics of the world has been changed. Our prime minister studied something called political economy, and this brings economics and merges it with alleviating poverty, social issues as well as economics and politics,” Thompson said.
Thompson likened Eustace to a man who is interested in his friend’s lady and therefore maligns the lady to his friend even as he tried to woo her.
“That’s what’s happening here. Eustace has been interested in divesting shares in NCB and VINLEC since 2000 but he did not admit over the last three weeks,” Thompson said.
Eustace last week defended his proposal of 2000 saying, “… We said to local investor, not to St. Lucians”.
He further said the NDP, which was voted out of office in March 2001, would have “provided incentives to privately owned firms in the country to offer some shares to their employees and the general public”.
“[T]he objective was to get the widest local ownership as possible. This never contemplated the sale of NCB to [foreigners]. … It contemplated sale to local investors with the widest possible ownership of the bank,” Eustace further said.
Thompson however said that when the ULP came to office in 2001 “the NCB has some serious problems. And over the last ten years, we’ve done a remarkable job”.
He spoke of record profits in 2006 and 2007, and the bank’s largest profit ever, EC$15 million, in 2008
“So, how could anybody say that Ralph wrecked the bank when over all this period of time you saw growth, record profit after record profit over that period of time?
“Comrades, in 2009, we know that the profit fell to $1 million but we know that there was also a global financial crisis,” he said, adding that remittances and visitor arrivals also fell. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
He further said NCB had to pay $4.5 million after the resolution of a tax issue.
“So the profit really should have been anywhere around $6 million. … But $1 million profit is still a profit. It’s not a loss. And the point is that over the ten years, NCB has made a significant profit,” Thompson said, noting that the NCB had to compete with other commercial banks.
According to the Caribbean Media Corporation, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central bank (ECCB) Sir K. Dwight Venner has said that the amalgamation of the NCB and Bank of St. Lucia will strengthen the capital base of the regional banking system.