Saturday, December 16, 2017

Imbert: Govt, Central Bank must come clean

Plans to dispose of CL Financial assets


MILESTONE: Marcelo Rodriguez, from left, regional treasurer, Scotiabank; Anya Schnoor--managing director, Scotiabank T&T; Savon Persad--senior general manager, and Kenrick Sealy, manager, Scotiabank Independence Square, cut a cake yesterday to celebrate the bank’s 60th anniversary at its Independence Square branch in Port of Spain. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Mark Fraser

THE People’s National Movement’s (PNM) Colm Imbert said yesterday Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran and the Government must come clean about plans to dispose of the assets of CL Financial.

Imbert said too much silence surrounds the handling of Clico’s substantial assets and it could lead to the perception that “deals are being made” to dispose of the assets before the next general election.

The Diego Martin North/East MP was speaking at a press conference yesterday at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on Charles Street, Port of Spain, called to  address the party’s concerns over the new foreign exchange system implemented by the Central Bank and the handling of Clico.

Imbert said the assets of the fallen financial giant were still considerable and included One Woodbrook Place, Angostura Ltd, Home Construction Ltd, Colfire, Millennium Park and Methanol Holdings.

“People don’t realise the assets the Central Bank is playing with,” Imbert said.

He said a wall of secrecy has gone up around the disposal plans and the Opposition maintains its call for a clear Government policy on the matter.

Imbert said hints of sales of some assets have so far come “through the grapevine” and include the sale of Atlantic Plaza and Valpark Shopping Plaza.

He said Rambarran is more or less sitting in complete control of the situation but that no information is forthcoming.

The PNM had in May this year criticised the Bank’s new system as having the potential to create a foreign exchange blackmarket that has not been seen in Trinidad and Tobago since the 1980s.

Opposition Senator Dr Lester Henry, who also spoke yesterday,  said in May that the new system, introduced on April 1, expanded the pool of authorised dealers for US currency from the six commercial banks to 12 entities, including  Development Finance Ltd, Neal and Massy Finance, Ansa McAL Finance, and General Finance Corporation.

He had said that the Central Bank now also allowed the big foreign exchange earners such as Petrotrin, NGC, PCS Nitrogen and bpTT (who earn approximately US$5 billion a year), to allocate a 25 per cent portion of their foreign exchange earnings to any one of the 12 players. 

Henry said the only way the current system will be able to sustain itself is through frequent injections of foreign exchange and that what is now being experienced  is an “artificial shortage”.

The currency is there, he said, but is simply not available to small users.