“ CLICO 'going on too long' ”

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Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, has advised that a solution to the CLICO debacle must be found fairly soon. He told journalists at the Caribbean Development Bank’s Wildey headquarters recently that the matter “has been going on too long” and said he had held discussions with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart when CARICOM Heads of Government met in St Lucia recently and would be meeting with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler “pretty shortly”. Gonsalves declined to go into further details, however, saying he did not want to prejudice any discussions in relation to CLICO by talking about what would be “the precise contours of any settlement”. “Clearly it is a regional settlement and it has to be settled regionally,” the Vincentian leader insisted. He added: “We have to put, as far as possible, the policyholders and those who own instruments in CLICO in a position in the most advantageous way practical in all the circumstances.” Gonsalves also said the regional governments were closer to finding a solution to the problems associated with British American Insurance Company (BAICO), the sister company to CLICO, though he pointed out that BAICO’s problems were “more severe” than  CLICO’s. “While the assets for CLICO may be 50 or 60 per cent of the liabilities, in the case of [BAICO] the assets were a number approaching zero so it is a much greater problem,” he explained. However, he said there was “a fairly comprehensive framework” dealing with BAICO “and we got some resources from the government of Trinidad and Tobago and we are also taking legal action against BAICO and some of their directors”, The two insurance companies, which operated in several Caribbean countries, sent shock waves throughout the region when the parent company CL Financial collapsed in February 2009, and the contagion spread to subsidiary companies affecting thousands of  policyholders and investors across the region.