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ONLY HUMAN: Tell me why, Mr Sinckler

Sanka Price

ONLY HUMAN: Tell me why, Mr Sinckler

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Dear Mr Sinckler,
I’m puzzled as to the real reason why the Government sold off its remaining shares in Republic Bank (Barbados) Limited, previously the Barbados National Bank, at below their market value.
The only time people sell something for less than it’s worth is if they need the money quickly. Is Government hungry for cash and that is why they took $5 per share instead of insisting on the $5.50 per share market value?
What has me even more perplexed is why Government rejected Republic Bank’s offer two years ago to pay $5.65 per share as not good enough, but this year did not put up a fight, at least in public, to the Trinidadian owned bank’s offer of $5 per share.
What’s more, why did Government actually pursue the Trinidadians to buy the remaining shares in what was once our national bank, even though they weren’t really interested in buying them? We know this happened because Republic’s head honcho David Dulal Whiteway, said as much in an interview with the SUNDAY SUN last month. The top banker said it was Barbados that was pushing the deal and not Republic Bank. He said the regional bank was “happy” with its 65 per cent shareholding.
What could have happened in the last two years to make Barbados so desperate that we have now agreed to an $87.22 million payout for our shares, some $11.33 million less than what we would have earned back in 2010?
I must say as a proud Barbadian, I felt hurt when Dulal Whiteway said Government made a big mistake when it refused to take the $5.65 per share the bank had offered in 2010. He rubbed salt in my wounds, too, when he denied that the bank was not taking advantage of Barbados’ financially weakened position today to get away with its $5 per share offer.
Dual Whiteway said: “We were always happy with our 65 per cent. We really weren’t looking to get 100 per cent . . . . However, the Government indicated several times that they wanted to sell the shares – their 18 per cent – because they felt it was strategic and that they could use that money for other things at the national level.”
The reason I am so baffled about the sale of these shares and feel a proper explanation is needed, minister, is that two years ago you dissed the suggestion from Leader of the Opposition Owen Arthur that you should have sold the shares then.
If you recall, in Arthur’s reply to the 2010 Budget in which you imposed as a revenue-earning measure an increase of VAT from 15 to 17.5 per cent for 18 months, he said Government could have realized the same revenue earnings by selling the then BNB shares to Republic Bank.
In your wrap-up of the debate you said Government would not “offload the BNB shares as though it was a barn sale”. You said then it was not a sustainable policy to do such and queried what else would Arthur look around the country to sell after the BNB.
Yet, two years later you have done precisely what you criticized Arthur for suggesting. Why did you change your position? What is happening with the Barbados economy that you need this money so urgently that we had to go cap in hand and take what the Trinis were willing to give us? Beggars can’t be choosers – is this our situation now?
Of course, I expect you to make mock sport regarding these questions and suggest I’m pushing somebody else’s agenda. That’s typical of how all politicians, Government and opposition, behave. But you need to realize that Bajans are seeing through such silly responses. They saw and heard how you and your colleagues “punished” Mia Mottley “with laughter” when she pleaded for CLICO to be placed under judicial management in the early months. Government reassured and delayed, then finally went into judicial management where a hornet’s nest has been revealed. And that is only one example.
I urge you, sir, to level with Bajans on why the money from these shares was so urgently needed, and what you plan to do with it.
• Sanka Price is the SATURDAY SUN editor.