Quick action from Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell resulted in executive members of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union having discussions Monday on the ongoing fallout from the collapse of Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO) Chairman of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union’s (ECCU) Technical Core Committee on Insurance, Whitfield Harris met with the executive members at the union’s headquarters.
It was the first such meeting between Harris and CLICO policy holders and he provided updates on the current status of the CLICO situation, which essentially remains a legal issue with adjudicated matters handled by a Judicial Manager.
Although Harris did not have news of an imminent resolution of the matter, he spoke of ongoing attempts which have so far failed to bring about reimbursement for victims in Grenada and elsewhere in the Eastern Caribbean.
The ECCU committee chair said a plan approved by the court in Barbados 4 years ago is being challenged by the ECCU as it gives apparent preference to policy holders in Barbados, with payout to those persons expected in phase one and to those in other countries, in phase two.
Harris explained that the challenge is based on what appears to be an erroneous presumption in the court ruling that treated CLICO offices in Eastern Caribbean countries as subsidiaries, when in fact, they were branches which places their policyholders on equal footing as those in Barbados. A hearing on this appeal is still pending.
Making a brief appearance at the meeting, Dr Mitchell said it is painful to hear of the grief the CLICO debacle has caused many persons. Though the Prime Minister himself is a victim of the CLICO fallout, he said it is nothing compared to the loss experienced by others
The Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union started its pension plan with CLICO as far back as 1962 with members and their employers sharing contributions to the plan. Over the years, some members would have accumulated several hundred thousand dollars in benefits but today, many of them are left unable to take care of their basic needs.
The Prime Minister said, “Government views with serious concern the significant impact of the irresponsible behaviour of a few persons on the lives and livelihood of so many people. When you see people whose entire life savings are linked to the irresponsible, fraudulent behaviour of people who continue to live nice while others are dying without their benefits, it hurts. We feel the pain of the workers and the damage that has been done to all and by implication, the country as a whole.”
Questioned on the way forward, the ECCU official said a resolution may require political intervention, although this in itself presents challenges with the matter still before the court.
Dr Mitchell has promised to initiate a conversation with his Barbadian counterpart on the CLICO issue and he remains hopeful for a change in attitude on the matter.
It is estimated that about 30,000 persons across Grenada and other Eastern Caribbean countries are victims of the CLICO debacle. Figures that at this point are several years old, indicate that CLICO assets are not sufficient to honour its liabilities. The disparity between assets and liabilities continues to be exacerbated with each passing day as the Judicial Manager assigned to the case, is remunerated from these same assets.
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