Dookeran: We have not explained Clico issue well

(Trinidad Guardian) Finance Minister Winston Dookeran says while he would soon be seeking parliamentary and Cabinet approvals to pay Clico policyholders with balances over TT$75,000 in form of a twenty-year bond, the Government has failed to effectively explain the offer. He said as a result of this communication failure, it has given rise to confusion and misunderstandings. “I do not feel as if Clico policyholders fully understand the offer that is being made to them and that is partly our fault…but it is more than our fault,” he said. Dookeran made the statement yesterday during the Caribbean Association of Audit Committee Members’ (CAACM) 5th Annual Regional Meeting and Conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Port of Spain, hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of T&T (ICATT) and CAACM.

Policyholders were not clear on the fact that it was not going to take them 20 years to receive their pay-out, said Dookeran. “I tried to communicate this but the message never got across,” Dookeran said.

The bond payments, he noted, were just a requirement and the issue has to do with what is the discount rate that the bondholders would receive. “And we are trying to get the best deal for them,” he said.

He explained that once the bonds were issued, they could be redeemed in the financial sector with a discount.

But it was the discount that was proving to be a challenge because the Ministry had to come up with an effective discounted rate without putting the country’s debt profile at risk. In a subsequent interview with the media, he was asked if he was satisfied with the way the CLICO  commission of enquiry was being conducted and if there would be any positive benefits. He said, “I think it would be a great education benefit and believed the people would receive much more than that. “There’s a lot the public does not know, but in going forward we are going to take steps to make them more aware.” He added that the media also have a role to play in assisting with the information flow to the public and in bringing issues to the table.

Dookeran said that the Commission of Enquiry was doing that and informing the public where and why things went wrong. Looking at the broader picture, he said, the country had been faced with a lot of financial deficits and among them was the Clico fiasco, which had greatly affected the T&T and the Caribbean. He said Clico was ineffectively handled and should have not been allowed to reach to this state “because today it is haunting us.” The Clico fiasco, he said, had affected ten per cent of T&T’s GDP and 17 per cent of the Caribbean’s, which translated into an enormous shock. “Therefore, we would have to enhance the public’s understanding on the issue not only with respect to the issue of self interest but with respect to the global happenings around us and how T&T is navigating those waters,” Dookeran said.

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