By Peter Richards
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has acknowledged “an ongoing administrative process” involving its president, Hyginus “Gene” Leon, but remained silent on reports that senior officials of the region’s premier financial institution had been sent on administrative leave.
Earlier, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) had reported that it was reliably informed that senior officials of the CDB had been sent on administrative leave, but that its sources could not provide further details at this time.
However, in a terse one paragraph statement late on Wednesday night, the bank said “Caribbean Development Bank acknowledges an ongoing administrative process involving the President. The Bank will not be making any further comments on this internal matter at this time.”
The statement followed the announcement by the bank Wednesday that it had postponed to next month, its annual news conference where it was expected to outline recommendations on how it intended to harness regional and international alliances to broker new partnerships for holistic and inclusive development.
The news conference was originally scheduled for Tuesday next week, but the one paragraph statement announcing the postponement to Feb. 20, gave no reason.
“The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will now be holding its 2024 Annual News Conference on Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Subsequent updates will be shared directly and published via Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn,” the statement said.
But when asked by CMC for the reasons for the postponement, the CDB responded saying “the Bank’s teams needed more time”.
When it announced the scheduled news conference earlier this month, the CDB said that it would be held under the theme “Facilitating Resilient Prosperity” at its headquarters in Wildey, on the outskirts of the capital.
It said the participants would have been Leon, the Vice President Finances and Corporate Services, Gregory N. Hill, the director of the Projects Department, Mrs. Therese Turner Jones and the director of the Economic Department, Ian Durant.
The statement had informed local and regional journalists that they could expect an overview of CDB’s strategies for resource mobilisation, a review of 2023 regional economic performance and the forecast for 2024 as well as results of the CDB-supported projects implemented in 2023
It said that a preview of planned projects, rationale and expected outcomes for 2024 would have also been made during the news conference.
Leon is the sixth president of the regional development finance institution. He was elected at a special meeting of the CDB Board of Governors held on Jan. 19, 2021 for a five-year term, and assumed office on May 4, 2021.
The highly regarded St. Lucian-born economist heads a team of more than 200 employees headquartered in Bridgetown, and came to the assignment with 35 years of experience in economics, financial policy development and executive management, more than 20 of which were spent working with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund.
He succeeded the Jamaican-born Warren Smith who retired in 2021 after serving as president for 10 years.
Last week, Leon was in Guyana holding talks with CARICOM chairman, Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali and CARICOM Secretary General Carla Barnett.