For much of 2015, throughout 2016 and even last year, Barbadians at home and those living abroad were encouraged by the state via the Central Bank to invest in Government Savings Bonds.
Saving Bonds had been on offer for 35 years and there was never any negative fallout or doubt about the guarantees.
It came over as a good idea, and the public responded overwhelmingly.
After all, people were not getting the kinds of returns from the commercial banks as previously; and in the aftermath of the CLICO fiasco, people were apprehensive about where to put their hard-earned money.
Many of the public officers who were retiring after putting in 33 1/3 years sought a safe haven to put aside a few dollars for a rainy day and old age.
Now the country is on a fiscal cliff, these very average working class bondholders want to know is whether they are going to be pushed over the ridge.
And though Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley’s conversations with the people are refreshing and welcoming, her talk on Sunday evening did not go into details on this issue.
The economists and bankers always talk about people taking a “haircut” when their investments go down the drain, as was the case in Greece. Bajan bondholders need to know if they are going to have their heads “shaved”.
This could be a double whammy, as it is not only the retired workers, those who have sacrificed and put aside, who may be at risk, but possibly small businesses and even what should be the financially savvy credit unions.
Government should state how many holders of Savings Bonds there are in Barbados, how many of these are individual holders, and how much money is tied up in this investment.
After the collapse of Trade Confirmers, Plantations Limited and CLICO, Barbadians do not want bad news about their finances, and more so from the state, which has always promised guarantees.
It would also be good for former Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and former Central Bank Governor Delisle Worrell to both address this issue, as much of the moral suasion to buy these bonds was utilised on their watch.
Clarity is needed, and urgently. People are anxious. (ES)