KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 4, CMC – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace is not the only person who former prime minister Sir James Mitchell thinks has done his time.
Sir James also thinks that it is time for “fresh thinking” at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and that its governor, Sir K. Dwight Venner, should step down from the position he has held since December 1989.
“Dwight Venner has been there too long. He is the longest-serving central bank governor in the world. We need fresh thinking and fresh vigilance in these financial institutions,” Sir James said on a television programme on Sunday.
“I was one of the persons who put him there, but, … same way we have to look for succession in politics, we have to look for succession in our institutions,” he further said.
Sir James made the point in response to a question about the Financial Services Authority’s take-over of the Building & Loan Association.
“Not only they (FSA) should step in, the Central Bank should step in and legislation should be changed to give the Central Bank authority to deal with all these institutions,” Sir James said.
He said the ECCB should also broaden its oversight.
“What are they doing? Just checking what money goes between [commercial banks] and see the balancing of their accounts and so on,” he said.
“And it is really sad, these disasters following in our monetary system, just like what is happening in the monetary system in other parts of the world,” he further stated.
The FSA took over management and control of the 72-year-old BLA on Feb. 1, after a newspaper article by politician Luke Browne, an economist in the Ministry of Finance, triggered an EC$9 million run on the BLA.
Sir James, a former minister of finance, who was prime minister for the 16 years ending October 2000, said, “when these things happen, I go back to basics.
“Where is the Central Bank in all that? Where was the Central Bank with the destruction of the middle class by CLICO and British American in St. Vincent and throughout the Caribbean?” he further said.
He said when he spoke of the collapse of the insurance giants during the 2009 constitution referendum here, Sir Dwight said he has nothing to do with insurance companies.
“I suppose he will say now he has nothing to do with building societies,” Sir James said.
“And it is very, very sad what has happened there with Building & Loan,” the former prime minister said of the society which he dubbed “Building & Groan”.
Asked if he thinks the BLA could be saved, Sir James said, “I don’t have the facts and I wish it well.”
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, has said that he has applied to the Central Bank for a standby facility of $EC15 million to help recapitalise the BLA, should the need arise.
During the programme on Sunday, Sir James also called on Eustace to step down as head of the New Democratic Party, which Sir James founded in 1975.
Sir James stepped down as head of the NDP ahead of the March 2001 election, which the NDP lost after four terms in office.
The party has been in opposition since, although it came one seat short of an election victory in 2010.