EDITORIAL – Pity to lose opportunity for wealth creation
THE LAST TIME SHARES in Barbados National Bank (BNB) and Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) were put on the market, Barbadians were slow to purchase. This stand-off, which other than the fact that locals are not comfortable with stocks, is inexplicable.True to say, stocks and shares were generally limited to Barbados Light & Power, Barbados Shipping and Trading Limited, Goddard’s Enterprises, Barbados Cooperative Cotton Factory Limited and Plantations Limited. There was no stock exchange and opportunities to purchase were known generally to commercial banks, Trustee departments of banks or secretaries of the stated companies.It is therefore clear that acquisition of stocks was limited to a few or to persons knowledgeable in business and, even then, most likely from business contacts met perhaps at the Bridgetown Club or the then Royal Barbados Yacht Club. It is then understandable why the general population was indeed ignorant of ownership of shares in local companies. The above, it would seem would have given rise to the stand-off from share ownership which still largely pervades the masses. And so at the time BNB and ICBL shares came on the market, the earlier described lukewarmness towards share ownership was deeply entrenched and no doubt led to the seizure of the opportunity, in the case of BNB, by the Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd.Needless to say, that our National Bank is non-Barbadian owned has irked a segment of the community and more so since the new owners have been able to extract massive profits from this country and from Barbadian customers.Presently, no doubt due to the recessionary climate, Government is willing to dispose of a major portion of its residual shareholding in both companies but more interestingly, BNB. It is therefore left to Barbadians to seize what must certainly be their last chance for a long time to own part of what was and is emotionally still their national bank, and at what can be described as a reasonable price – BDS$ 5.65 per share.Similarly, shares in ICBL can be bought at a current price of BDS$ 3.03 per share. To do nothing and later complain is to fail to recognise these were two of the more efficiently run institutions of government and as evidenced by the performance of BNB, institutions with potential for good profits, if well managed.We think, however, that the present economic climate mandates the commercial banks, especially BNB, which have enjoyed handsome profits year after year, to extend their menus to include a facility to enable Barbadians to purchase shares in these two entities at attractive rates of interest – say not more than 6 per cent up to $20 000, as their contribution to wealth and asset accumulation by Barbadians.