KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 13, IWN – Many Vincentians were alarmed by the details Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves revealed Tuesday about the Building & Loan Association, and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace was among them.
“Some of the figures he gave this morning alarmed me. It is the first time I heard them; first time ever. Especially for the non-performing loans,” Eustace said on Tuesday as he responded on radio to Gonsalves’ accusation that the opposition was politicising the situation.
Eustace said the Financial Services Authority was reticent during a meeting on Thursday with Eustace and opposition legislator St. Clair Leacock of the New Democratic Party.
“Mr. Leacock and myself were never told anything with respect to the portfolio of Building & Loan. We only learnt from the general press releases that there are difficulties with the portfolio. What they gave us in terms of documentation were the press releases that they had already issued, … one of which was issued that same day,” Eustace said.
Eustace also said he did not know there was no non-accrual of interest at the BLA. That is, that BLA was putting on its books interest it had not actually received.
“We were not informed about anything in respect to the portfolio of Building & Loan. … We were never told anything about delinquency rate, we were never told anything about non-accrual policy for interest and so on; nothing like that.
“They (the FSA) gave us some broad information. Because they were reluctant, really, to give detailed information,” Eustace said.
“So, for the Prime Minister to give the impression that we have made this statement knowing fully well what is happening, is a lie. … I am saying if Miss [Sharda] Bollers (Executive Director of the FSA) them had them in their notes which they gave to him — because I suspect that he sent them anyway — then, they too would have lied,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves on Tuesday read from a report his Ministry of Finance prepared on the BLA in 2009, although the report writers strictly urged against making its content public.
“He gave more information today that most shareholders of Building & Loan don’t have, don’t know about,” Eustace said.
“I am certain about that. I was never told about any run on Building & Loan in 2009. That wasn’t discussed with us. I don’t know what the current state of the withdrawals are. … We are all concerned about the situation because it is an important financial institution in our country…”
Eustace said the issue the nation faces has to do with the BLA’s role in the economy and the impact of any failure on BLA’s 20,000 members.
“… I just want to make that statement very clear … because he is giving this impression in his presentations that we had all this information.”
Eustace further said that he and Leacock were not briefed on a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Finance and the BLA but read about it in an FSA press release.
“In circumstances like these, who would expect people to have confidence in a government — in the government? How, in this kind of situation?
“Sometimes, it is very difficult in the circumstances but I am very, very clear in my head. I’ll be watching the performance of the FSA and also the performance of the public in relation to this matter,” Eustace said.
The FSA took over management and control of the BLA on Feb. 1 after a letter in a newspaper triggered a run on the 72-year-old institution, the second run since 2009.