Amidst reports that several financial institutions in Guyana are in shambles, Leader of the Opposition, Robert Corbin, yesterday told the National Assembly that it is a situation that needs to be addressed with urgency.
He put forward a motion to have the Assembly adjourn from the budget discussions to discuss this matter which is of “urgent public importance” and which he deemed to be “a financial crisis in Guyana” caused by the distress of Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO), the Hand-in-Hand Trust and other entities.
Addressing the House, Corbin said it is now well known that the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) alone is exposed to some $6B, more than 20 percent of the funds accumulated by the NIS over its 40 years of existence, in CLICO, and other investors and policy holders in CLICO can lose further billions of dollars if these problems are not resolved.
According to Corbin, the problem is clearly a Caribbean one. However, he lashed out at the Commissioner of Insurance and the Bank of Guyana for being silent on the matter.
He added that over the past few weeks all that has been offered is that “the situation is being monitored.”
Corbin noted that the President and the Minister of Finance have also adopted the same position since the news of CLICO’s parent company in Trinidad, CL Financial, came to light more than a month ago.
“I have no doubt that the matter qualifies as urgent and of public importance because Guyanese workers’ pensions and savings are in jeopardy and the government has been less than forthright with our citizens.”
He added that he understood that the government had belatedly moved to the court yesterday on this matter but the nation is still in the dark with respect to these developments.
Consequently, Corbin said, the National Assembly of the Parliament needs to address this matter urgently. “I believe that the entire nation – the workers and the people who have billions invested in CLICO must be very worried.”
However, at a media briefing last evening, President Jagdeo said that the opposition leader is just engaging in grandstanding, which hardly serves the cause of reinforcing confidence in Guyana’s strong financial system.
“Yesterday at 12 noon I briefed the Leader of the Opposition on the situation and on Government’s intentions to approach the courts to seek an order with relation to CLICO (Guyana).
I was therefore extremely disappointed, and regard it as most regrettable, that the Leader of the Opposition would have sought to engage in grandstanding in Parliament earlier this afternoon, claiming that the Government and regulator have said nothing on this matter. Such action could only have been designed in pursuit of narrow political interests, and hardly serves the cause of reinforcing confidence in Guyana’s strong financial system.”
Later in a press release, the PNCR said that Guyana is in the midst of a serious financial crisis and CLICO is the first victim.
The PNCR opined that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh and the Commissioner of Insurance, Ms. Maria van Beek, have been derelict in their duties as the facts amply demonstrate and the Party therefore “has no hesitation in calling for their immediate resignations”.
The Party also issued a reminder to the Jagdeo Administration that it has “been calling for the appointment of a group of experts from within Guyana and the Region who understand the intricacies of the local and regional economies to examine the current financial and economic crisis and propose solutions which might help to cushion the effects of this unprecedented situation.”
Relatedly, as the crisis is regional in scope and dimension, the PNCR urged that it be raised on an urgent basis at the next summit conference of the Caribbean Community.
The PNCR will table another Motion on this matter in the National Assembly of the Parliament under another Standing Order which could permit it to be debated in three days’ time.
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