BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- While addressing the Barbados Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on the 11th January, 2012. Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, disclosed that the local National Insurance Scheme (NIS), along with the National Insurance Schemes of Dominica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, would be minority investors in the stalled Four Seasons project in Barbados.
Sinckler is quoted by the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) website as saying, "The IDB, along with ANSA Merchant Bank and Four Seasons - the company - have agreed to put upwards of US $180 million into the project to get it going again, along with our NIS (schemes) across the region. The [Barbados] NIS board has made a decision which has been formally communicated to Four Seasons officials and to me."
However, controversy has started to hit the fan after it was reported in local news that the Dominica government is yet to decide on a proposed EC$30 million (BDS$22 million) investment in the stalled Four Seasons (Barbados) project, as it had not reached the prime minister's desk.
St Vincent and the Grenadines' Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves later denied that his country's NIS had invested in, or was even interested in investing in the stalled Four Seasons hotel resort project. "You can take it from the minister, it is absolutely not true," the prime minister said.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has since warned Government about its continued use of National Insurance Scheme (NIS) funds. The IMF noted that the NIS' exposure to Government increased from 54 per cent in 2005 to almost 70 per cent in 2011 and this placed it well above the recommended limit of below 54 per cent.
The IMF report claims Barbados is struggling in the aftermath of the global crisis, with a slow recovery underway. Tourism, offshore financial services and construction were especially hard hit, but some activity has resumed. In response, to limit employment losses and shield vulnerable groups, the government increased social spending, putting pressure on public finances and raising public debt further.
It would now appear that Mr. Christopher Sinckler has some explaining, and apologies to make to his Caribbean neighbours, and the people of Barbados, and investors in the project. What was the need behind this faux pas by the minister?
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