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Government is moving to pay out about $500 million to depositors of the former Hindu Credit Union but no money will be paid to wrongdoers, Minister of Finance and the Economy Larry Howai said during his windup of yesterday’s debate on the Purchase of Certain Rights (HCU) Bill in Parliament. One of the major provisions of the bill is to authorise the Minister of Finance to sign agreements, make payments and issue bonds to purchase the rights belonging to the HCU shareholders and depositors.
In addressing concerns raised by PNM MP Colm Imbert that those responsible for HCU’s collapse could benefit from the payout, Howai stressed: “Under no circumstances is the Government prepared to make any payment to any related parties. This is not about bailing our wrongdoing. We are bailing out the innocent victims of this particular situation.” He said the former credit union operated like a runaway horse and caused grief to individuals who invested in it.
He told legislators that amended legislation would be brought to Parliament soon to ensure there was no repeat of the HCU fiasco and assured there would be the implementation of a regime of measures that would prevent a recurrence of such a problem. “We will be able to move earlier, more effectively and we will be able to make stronger decisions to deal with the specific issues,” he said. Howai said several stakeholder recommendations were included in the proposed credit union legislation that would be brought to Parliament shortly.
The minister said, however, that nothing was being done to weaken the sector. According to Howai, a regime of legislation, relating to the insurance industry, the securities industry and credit unions, will be in place by the end of the year. Howai also defended a decision to have former First Citizens chairman Nyree Alfonso on several boards at the same time, which was raised earlier in the debate by St Joseph MP Terrence Deyalsingh.
Howai said such a situation was necessary for consistency. He said the banking sector was regulated by the Central Bank and if it felt there was an issue it would have said so. “There is good reason for why the structure is the way it is,” he added. He said Alfonso, who was removed as chair of the board in the wake of the First Citizens IPO fiasco, was “not doing anything that I think could have been considered as being improper or certainly the Central Bank would have made a comment had that been so.”
Also yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Opposition MP Terrence Deyalsingh and Speaker Wade Mark extended Indian Arrival Day greetings to citizens. They spoke of the historical significance and the contributions of the East Indian community since arriving here 169 years ago from India. Persad-Bissessar and other MPs were dressed in traditional East Indian clothing to mark the occasion.